Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 | 12:52 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski come to you from Provo to discuss UNLV's 76-70 come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night at BYU. The fellas talk about Wink Adams' emergence as the Rebels' senior spokesperson through both his play and his words, take a look at the ever-evolving early season MWC race, plus, what is it with those shoes? It's not as minor as you might think ... if you've noticed at all. Plus, postgame comments from Lon Kruger, Wink Adams and René Rougeau.
Beyond the Sun
PROVO, Utah -- René Rougeau had seen this Wink Adams before.
It's the Wink Adams who scored 22 points without relying on a single 3-point make, instead using his bowling ball of a body to force himself into the paint for either acrobatic layups or foul calls against the opposition. He was a key in the Rebels' 76-70 come-from-behind victory over BYU at the Marriott Center on Wednesday night.
"Probably the last time we played BYU," Rougeau said. "He was just real patient, I think that was the biggest thing tonight. Whether it was inside or outside, he played with great patience. We definitely need him to play like that all the time. Without a doubt."
The question that prompted the UNLV senior swingman's response was pretty upfront: When was the last time you saw Wink Adams take over a game the way he did in those first 10 minutes of the second half?
The previous meeting with BYU -- last March's Mountain West Tournament title game -- involved Adams pouring in 23 points, mostly in the second half, in a 76-61 Rebels victory.
With his team staring at a 43-30 deficit at halftime in this season's first meeting with the Cougars and the potential of a third consecutive conference road defeat, it was time to take charge.
"Our whole thing coming into the second half was stopping the transitions," he said. "That's a team that likes to pass it at half court, get two passes and get a 3-pointer up. Second half, we kind of took away some passes and made them drive and force some shots, and I'm just glad we could get a lot of rebounds and turn them into points."
No one turned them into points better than Adams, who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points after the break. He also finished the night off with eight rebounds and two steals.
While BYU mustered only one field goal in the first 14 minutes of the second half, Adams & Co. methodically chipped away at the Cougars' lead. At one point during that stretch, Adams added insult to BYU's one-for-16 shooting slump by draining three consecutive shots.
Adams hit mid-range jumpers, wedged into traffic underneath the basket and slipped buckets in off the glass against taller defenders, then added a couple of floor burns to his unofficial personal box score.
After he helped push UNLV on top, he was just as integral in keeping the Rebels right there.
His biggest shot of the game came with his team leading 62-58, when toward the end of a lengthy possession, Rougeau saved a ball from going out of bounds while falling backward on the baseline.
He zipped the ball to Adams on the right wing with 2:06 left in the game.
"At first, when I got the ball, I was trying to slow it down, thought there was like 15, 20 seconds on the (play) clock," he said. "I saw coach Kruger and some other guys jumping on the bench and saw there were five seconds left, I knew I had to get something up."
What he got up was a prayer-like jumper that found nothing but twine.
UNLV never scored another bucket, but really never needed to. From that point on, the Rebels went 12-of-14 from the free throw line to seal the victory.
It's one that Adams, who had never won at the Marriott Center before Wednesday, will truly savor ... at some point.
In his three previous games in Provo, he'd gone a combined nine-of-35 from the floor and averaged 10.3 points per outing. His seven-of-16 performance in his finale was much more efficient.
"This is just like a relief," he said. "Now I can kind of leave UNLV with a chip on my shoulder saying I beat BYU now. It's not gonna be easy, we've still got some more games to play. When March comes, the whole thing's over, then we can celebrate, but right now, we've still got a lot of games to play."
Just as the Rebels appear to be shaking off the grime from two forgettable road losses to TCU and Colorado State, Adams is finally returning to true form.
In a way, the abdominal strain he suffered on Dec. 23 went as a wake-up call. Any hesitation he had toward driving hard into traffic seemed to disappear in practice last Thursday, when he unleashed a flurry of tough drives against the UNLV scout team.
Even though he'd dominated the game before his injury -- a 79-64 home win against Arizona -- with 25 points, it was done mostly via the 3-point shot. Seven of them, to be exact.
But when you combine what he showed in scoring 20 points against Wyoming on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center with Wednesday's old-school Wink Adams display, he, too, is hitting a stride, having come to terms with what wasn't working earlier on.
"I'm attacking the basket good," he said. "I think earlier in the season, I was just settling for the jumper, for the 3-ball too much. Coach told me my strong suit is getting to the free throw line and driving to the basket, and that's what I did tonight. I'm just glad it was falling."