The Rebels took a step in the right direction tonight with an impressive 83-66 victory over the Cowboys from Wyoming. Wink Adams had 16 first half points and finished as the Rebels' leading scorer with 20. During a two-minute period late in the first half, Wink took over. He scored seven straight points and gave the Rebels a lead they would never surrender.
Watching the first half, I almost believed that Coach Lon Kruger must have read my comments on the game at Colorado State. The Rebels with Darris Santee and Rene Rougeau slammed their way into the paint, while Tre'Von Willis hit a couple of threes.
The defense was back to being relentless and caused 18 turnovers by the Cowboys. The big difference for any really good team is what they do with those turnovers, and the 22 points the Rebels scored as a result of them was clearly the difference in the game.
The Cowboys were gamers all the way. They kept it close throughout the game with excellent play by Sean Ogirri, the 6'3" senior guard. Sean led all scorers with 21 points along with seven rebounds. Wyoming's leading scorer Brandon Ewing was held to just seven points, as he was double-teamed each time he moved to the basket.
Four Rebels including Wink saw double digits, with Rene Rougeau's 14, Tre'Von Willis with 13, and Darris Santee chipping in with 10. The Rebels outrebounded the Cowboys 40-31; most impressive were Rene Rougeau and Joe Darger, who each had six offensive boards, giving the Rebels many second and third opportunities to score.
This was the best performance of the new year for the Rebels. Whoever believes the Mountain West Conference should be classified as a mid-major needs to only look at today's scoreboard.
BYU, who was hammered at the Pit tonight by New Mexico, lost by one to Arizona State, who beat UCLA today at Pauley Pavilion. They also played a tight game at home against Wake Forest, who will take over as the No. 1 team in the land today when they knocked Clemson from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Louisville, who the Rebels beat on their home court without Wink Adams, took down the No. 1 team in the land today by destroying previously unbeaten Pitt.
The Mountain West Conference is definitely stronger than I initially thought they were. I guess I got caught up with the national hype for the Big East, ACC, SEC, etc. I originally thought it would take 12 wins to win this conference. I now have dropped that number to 10.
If we can get four teams into the NCAA, they will be capable of doing some serious damage. Unfortunately that won't happen. Three is their limit. That sucks.