Rebels Climb Atop MWC With 76-59 Win At CSU
Jan. 30, 2007
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - The reinforced Runnin' Rebels (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today) turned to their superior athleticism and speed to counter Colorado State's two 7-footers.
"We are athletic and we are quicker than most teams and we have to use those things to beat people," guard Wink Adams said after scoring 17 points in UNLV's 76-59 rout of the Rams on Tuesday night. "We are smaller than other teams so we have to use our athleticism to play defense and run. We can outrun taller teams.
"To counter Jason Smith we got out and ran after playing some hard defense."
Smith, one-half of the Rams' twin towers, had 12 points and 10 rebounds but it seemed like he was always leaving the post along with center Stuart Creason to help the guards, who were getting double-teamed and harassed by a UNLV defense that forced 21 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
"That's a very athletic, talented team. It showed tonight," CSU coach Dale Layer said. "The first half was the difference. It got us back on our heels. The 16 turnovers didn't help. That's like giving them 16 straight possessions without scoring."
Wendell White added 16 points for the Rebels (19-4, 6-2), who moved into a first-place tie with 17th-ranked Air Force in the Mountain West standings.
The Rebels, who led by as many as 19, also got back Kevin Kruger from a three-week absence.
Kruger, the Rebels' third-leading scorer, scored 6 points over 16 minutes in his return to action after missing four games and most of a fifth with a deep thigh bruise that he suffered in the opening minutes at Wyoming on Jan. 10.
He showed a little hesitation but wasn't gimpy for a player who was still hurting as late as Monday.
"I picked up, I feel like, right where I left off, I don't feel like I missed anything," Kruger said. "My conditioning is a still a little low, but that's going to happen when you take 2½ weeks off your feet. It got a little stiff there in the second half when I sat for a stretch, but not a stiff that's going to slow anything down. It's just a muscle soreness, like you just done working out kind of sore."
Kruger, who said he expected to be 100 percent by Thursday, celebrated his comeback with a long 3-pointer right after he entered the game.
"I got out there, I was comfortable. I caught it and shot it and as soon as I shot it, I was like, 'Whoa.' I just kind of did it out of habit, out of things I've been practicing my whole life," Kruger said. "I was just happy it went it, happy I could contribute."
Lon Kruger, UNLV's coach and Kevin's father, said his son informed him at shootaround that he felt good enough to play, but Kevin Kruger said he decided Saturday that he'd had enough of this sitting on the bench.
"I actually made up my mind at the 'Pack the Mack' game that I wasn't going to miss another game because this is getting too fun," said Kevin Kruger, a senior who transferred from Arizona State after his junior year to play for his father in Las Vegas. "And it's something I want to be a part of."
He said he could barely jog on Saturday and felt only about 70 percent on Monday.
Kevin Kruger, who was injured while fighting through a screen, acknowledged that he still has some strides to make mentally in his comeback.
"I'm still a little timid to go in the lane, get around screens, things that first started the whole process," he said. "I'm sure in a couple days it will be all hindsight."
Stephan Gilling's 13 points led Colorado State (14-6, 4-4), which lost for the seventh straight time to UNLV.
The Rebels built an early nine-point lead at 24-15 but went nearly five minutes without a point until seldom-used guard Rene Rougeau sank a free throw to give UNLV a 25-23 lead with 4:19 left in the first half.
The Rams tied it on a jumper by Lewis, but the Rebels closed the first half with a 12-3 run to take a 37-28 lead into the locker room. Rougeau scored two of the buckets, including a buzzer-beating jumper.
"I thought Rene pretty much won the game," Kevin Kruger said. "He played solid minutes. He did everything he was asked to do and then some. He wasn't timid at all. There was some open shots, he hit them. He got a few offensive rebounds, a few tip-outs and defensively he played great. That just adds to the depth that we have in our bench."