UNLV Rebels Rescued By Rutledge

Paul Delos SantosContributor IJanuary 24, 2009

Looking at the box score, Mo Rutledge's name won't stand out. But his contribution to UNLV's 75-65 victory over Utah was big.

Rutledge (pictured) played 15 minutes, grabbing a team-high seven rebounds and nailed a pair of 3-pointers, capping off of a 12-3 run in the middle of the second half. He finished with nine points.

"Mo got some big rebounds for us," said UNLV coach Lon Kruger on Versus.

The Runnin' Rebels (16-4, 4-2 Mountain West) were down by eight at the half, but like at Brigham Young, Wink Adams scored three consecutive buckets, giving the Rebels new life.

Adams finished with 14 points with 10 coming in the second half. Sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis finished with a career-high 22 points, carrying the team with Adams.

The Runnin' Utes (12-7, 3-3) were lights out in the first half, shooting 68 percent and were nailing every thing they threw up in the air, which hushed the ruckus Thomas & Mack crowd.

UNLV didn't shoot well, and were lucky to to be down only eight after, poor shooting and even worse free-throw shooting.

Willis nailed a trey as time ran out in the first half, which served as a signal that things might be getting better.

Things did.

UNLV's defensively intensity picked up, and Utah's star center Luke Nevill was hassled, the shooters were no longer hitting the looks they were hitting in the first and the Utes' physical play was matched blow for blow by the Rebels.

When the defense started working, so did the offense led by Adams, Willis, Rutledge. Freshman Oscar Bellfield also go into the mix, driving hard to the basket and finally cracking how to get a shot off against the seven-footer in the middle.

Nevill finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, but it wasn't enough as the Rebels defended their home court.

The win is a big one for UNLV, who now adds another quality victory to its tournament resume. This would be their second double-quality win over a top 20 RPI opponent. Utah, on the other hand, is looking for answers on how to win on opponent's home floors when that opponent is not named Colorado State or Wyoming.

Utah's Keys to the Game Pass/Fail:

Limit the Dribble Drive—Fail

UNLV got to the basket, and while they had trouble early hitting shots, they managed to finish. The Runnin' Rebels only attempted nine 3-pointers, meaning that 48 of the Rebels' scoring opportunities came from inside of the arc. Willis may have hit two treys, but his game is really taking it strong to the basket. The same goes for Adams as well.

Nevill needs to play his size—Inconclusive

Nevill played his size in the first half, but was a non-factor in the second. He didn't pass or fail, it's an inconclusive grade

Get off early—Pass

Once again, the Utes got off early in the first half, and were in the game until UNLV started running away with its big run. They had a lot of fans worried with their sharp shooting and size differential.

UNLV's Keys to the Game Pass/Fail:

Box Out—Pass

UNLV lost a slight battle on the boards 30-27, but when no Ute player grabs double digit rebounds, then they were making sure they had position on the rebounding front.

Attack the Paint—Pass

The Rebels attacked the paint, and sometimes did so too much. They got inside, made the layup, drew the foul or kicked out. It worked for them.

Stop the Others—Inconclusive

Nevill didn't get his average, and neither did the other guys. But there were four players in double digits, so they stopped them, but not enough.

Next Up:

UNLV at Air Force (1/31)

Utah at Brigham Young (1/27)