January 23, 2018 Currently: 60° | Complete forecast


Darger, Rougeau spark Rebels in correcting ‘little things’

Senior duo combines for 12 of UNLV’s season-high 22 offensive rebounds


Justin M. Bowen

Rene Rougeau dunks over Adam Waddell of Wyoming Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels beat Wyoming 83-66.

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Rene Rougeau dunks over Adam Waddell of Wyoming Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels beat Wyoming 83-66. Launch slideshow »

Box score

As cliché as it sounds, little things truly do mean a lot.

UNLV senior forward Joe Darger admitted that he and his teammates got a first-class reminder of that after digesting their loss at Colorado State on Wednesday night.

Correcting them wound up being a major key to the Rebels' 83-66 victory over Wyoming on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, halting a tough-to-swallow two-game skid.

Two of those "little" areas that stood out were limiting turnovers and snatching offensive rebounds.

The Rebels took down 22 offensive caroms, which mirrored their defensive rebound total for the night. As for the turnovers, they only committed eight. To give some perspective, they gave away possession seven times in the first nine minutes against Colorado State.

"We just realized we had to do all the little things in the ball game to make all the difference," Darger said. "Last couple of games, we really hadn't been doing all the little things in the ball game, and it was costing us. Little things, offensive rebounds, diving on the floor for loose balls, I think that made all the difference tonight."

They helped make up for a field goal percentage (42.9) that was lower than what they finished with in losses at both TCU (50) and Colorado State (49.1).

The Rebels did plenty of their damage with second-chance points, finishing with 24 compared to Wyoming's nine. The Cowboys shot a better percentage for the night (47.1), but only had nine offensive rebounds to their credit.

"It makes it much easier when you get all the extra possessions in the game," Darger said. "The less you can turn the ball over and the more offensive rebounds and little plays you get like that, they add up big in the end."

The lack of turnovers were a result of much sharper focus right out of the gates compared to a sloppy, careless start at Colorado State, which ultimately did the Rebels in.

The season-high total in offensive rebounds was a result of overall hustle and activity. UNLV's previous 2008-09 best in that category was 17 back on Nov. 18 against Texas-Pan American. In fact, it was the most offensive rebounds a UNLV team had taken down in a game since March 16, 2007, when the Rebels grabbed 24 in a first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Georgia Tech. That was 56 games ago, to be exact.

It was Darger's activity underneath early on that pushed René Rougeau to get going in fifth gear.

"Seeing I only had two rebounds in the last game, I was very upset about that," Rougeau said. "Seeing Joe go hard like that made me want to go even harder."

Darger had a season high in offensive rebounds, with six. Rougeau also had six, which he only accomplished once earlier in the campaign.

The two combined on a hustle play to start the second half, which epitomized just how hard the Rebels went from start to finish.

UNLV's first points out of the halftime locker room came on a Rougeau dunk. It was a play that involved him swooping down with the ball from the top of the key, ultimately turning Wyoming big man Adam Waddell into a prime poster victim. Waddell was called for a foul on the play.

Rougeau missed the free throw, and Darger sliced in from the block to grab the offensive board -- for a moment. It was poked away from behind and shot toward the sideline. Rougeau dove on the floor and poked the ball out to Wink Adams at the last possible second. The renewed possession resulted in a fading baseline jumper from Tre'Von Willis, which swished through.

"I have to be that guy that really gets everyone going," Rougeau said. "Being the vocal leader and setting an example, just me being a senior, I have to really lead the way for the younger guys. They see me hustling, and they start hustling. 'Tre' got on the ground, a couple of guys got on the ground tonight. I think more than anything I was mad I missed that free throw, so I wanted the ball back."

Rougeau had no choice but to play with the effort he did. In the two losses from earlier in the week, he wasn't the same all-around terror he'd been consistently so far this season. And before the Colorado State game, he was as guilty as several of his teammates of showboating during warmups, which the guys said afterward affected the way they played early on against the Rams.

A humbled Rougeau responded with 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Back to normal, indeed.

"Having poor performances, that'll definitely motivate you," he said. "When you're a senior and you're down and out, either it can go bad or you can turn this thing around.

"The seniors, we definitely did a good job of making sure everyone was focused. Our play did the talking for us."

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