Outclassed, UNLV likely NIT-bound


Sam Morris

San Diego State senior center Ryan Amoroso grabs a rebound Thursday in his team’s 71-57 win against UNLV in the Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

One and Done

For the 3rd time this season UNLV lost to San Diego State. This game, the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament saw the Rebels lose 71 to 57.

Did All He Could

In his third game of the year against San Diego State, senior Wink Adams scored a season-high 26 points, but it wasn't enough as UNLV fell to the Aztecs in the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament 71-57.

UNLV vs. San Diego State

UNLV guard Wink Adams reacts to picking up a foul in their game against San Diego State at the Mountain West Conference basketball championships Thursday.  San Diego State won the game 71-57. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Nothing unexpected ...

Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 71-57 loss to San Diego State in the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament, which more than likely punched the Rebels' dance ticket ... for the NIT. The guys discuss the lingering problems which could not be cured heading into the MWC tourney, and just how long fans can expect to see the Rebels hang around in whichever tournament they go to.

Beyond the Sun

One of these days, America will go back to work, Bernie Madoff will pay back everybody he owes and Jupiter will align with Mars.

Then peace will guide the planets.

And UNLV will beat San Diego State in basketball again.

It won’t happen this year.

The Aztecs are the Rebels’ worst nightmare. It’s like trying to take Freddy Krueger to the hole on Elm Street. San Diego State is quicker, taller, bigger, longer, stronger and any other “er” word you can think of than the Rebels.

Like “better.”

The Aztecs proved it for the third time this year Thursday, drubbing the Rebels 71-57 in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It seems strange to say, but it wasn’t that close. The Rebels were never in the game. Not in the beginning. Not in the middle. Not at the end.

Regardless of how many shots Wink Adams willed into the basket — and he willed in a lot — it would have taken a Ponzi scheme to end all Ponzi schemes for the Rebels to beat the Aztecs on this day when the pyramid came crashing down in front of 10,856 mostly stunned spectators.

“I thought our three performances against UNLV were good, better and this was the best,” said Steve Fisher, the San Diego State coach, after the Aztecs (22-8) finished a rare three-game sweep of the Rebels (21-10), with two of the wins coming in Las Vegas.

It was sort of like facing the Braves when they had Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. There weren’t enough big hitters in the UNLV lineup to counteract San Diego State’s physical superiority.

The Rebels lost the first game in overtime and led the second one Saturday at halftime. But the third one was a beat-down in just about every way imaginable.

There would be no clicking their heels together three times and repeating "There's no place like home." Not this year. Not against this Aztecs' team.

“San Diego State played great,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “They had a lot of control over what was happening on both ends of the floor.”

Control? This was like a NASA flight director bringing in a crop duster.

The visitors led 42-27 at halftime and it took the Rebels 15 minutes of the second half just to get the deficit under 10. They kept whittling and whittling and whittling but they did it with fingernail clippers when they needed a fireman’s ax.

At one point, I turned to a colleague and said, “San Diego State is playing smart,” and as bizarre as that sounded, he agreed.

Even with a 15-point lead, the Aztecs kept both oars in the water and two feet in the paint. Heretofore known as a bunch of serial jump-shot jackers, they simply refused to make a field-goal attempt early during the shot clock, unless it was a layup, and there were plenty of those.

At halftime, San Diego State had scored 22 points in the paint. UNLV had four. At the end of the game it was 36-14. This is what happens when big guys do not live up to press clippings and watch the game from the end of the UNLV bench.

At least the Rebels didn’t get killed on the offensive boards like they did Saturday, when the Aztecs rebounded their own misses 16 times. But that was mostly because San Diego State was shooting 3-footers, and those usually don’t result in offensive rebound opportunities.

SDSU's dominance was so thorough that when Fisher was asked if there was anything about the game he didn't like, he couldn't come up with anything.

The Aztecs turned the ball over 20 times Saturday. Fisher didn't like that. On Thursday, they had only seven turnovers. Even more impressive: They had 19 assists to the Rebels’ five.

This wasn’t your dad’s San Diego State team or your grandpa’s San Diego State team or Steve Fisher’s typical San Diego State team. Beginning with Lorrenzo Wade, this one played with the discipline of a drill sergeant.

The former Cheyenne prep star, who began his college career at Louisville, was ill during the teams’ first meeting in Las Vegas but not so sick that he couldn’t muster the energy to take some of worst shots since Dick Cheney went hunting with his buddies.

This time Wade was 7-for-13 from the field, pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out four assists.

When Lorrenzo Wade plays within himself, or the team concept, you know you’re in for a long night. Adams would have had to score 50 points to offset a game like that from the Aztec power forward, and unfortunately for the Rebels, he got stuck on 24 for the longest time. He finished with 26.

After struggling so badly down the stretch, Adams played great. But any chance the Rebels might have had to make a game of it probably ended when Rene Rougeau picked up two quick fouls to earn a seat on the bench. Wink couldn’t do it all by himself, although he sure did try.

Rougeau played only eight minutes in the first half, and this isn’t a team that can have him watching instead of getting after people who are bigger than him.

He’ll get to play at least one more, of course, but it’ll probably be in the Little Dance instead of the Big Dance. Teams that wheeze toward the finish line like an overheating Buick usually don’t receive NCAA Tournament berths, barring some strange and unforeseen development, such as an outbreak of influenza or a swarm of locusts descending on the Eastern seaboard.

Kruger didn’t sound very optimistic when asked about the Rebels’ NCAA Tournament chances, and he’s usually the most optimistic guy in the house.

“I don’t think we’ve done the things at this point where you sit there on Sunday (during the selection show) expecting to get in,” he said.

And so Jupiter didn’t align with Mars and the Rebels got whipped by San Diego State. As a result, they’ll probably wind up in the NIT, playing somebody like Weber State at home or Washington State on the road. Although I hear Pullman is beautiful this time of the year, it’s still pretty hard to get to.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a team that began the season 17-4 and beat mighty Louisville on its home court. That now seems like such a long, long time ago.

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  1. I'm sick of having a team that's short and lacks talent. UNLV has the best NCAA record of any team in the conference by a long, long way. So how the hell are the other MWC schools out-recruiting us?

  2. I'm starting to think Kruger just doesn't like Big men. Don Nelson anyone?? I realize Santee is not much of a player, but I like Massamba. For a freshmen he showed good potential- nice hands, good moves around the basket. He just needed to gain experience, but Kruger decided to go small and they collapsed down the stretch.

  3. I doubt this team could win an NIT game.

  4. I'm sick of fair weather fans who whine because every year isn't 1990. Kruger is a great coach. Each year there are nearly 350 Division I schools looking for not just a big man but a big man with skills. There aren't enough to go around. SDSU has a strong team and they beat us.

    Kruger's team may have been beaten by the one coached by Steve Fisher, but Fisher doesn't have the scruples to kick a common thief out of his program. Kruger would never find that acceptable no matter how talented the player. I respect him for that. The real test is look at what the graduates (if they graduated) of each team are doing 10 years from now. Some of them will be in jail and some of the will be leaders of their community. College coaching is a lot more than just playing basketball.