The UNLV Runnin Rebels have taken the first step towards trying to regain the form that has taken them to the Big Dance for the last two years. Wink Adams took control today with 25 points and powered the Rebels to a 79-64 victory over the Wildcats from the University of Arizona.
This was a very big win against a major opponent that has been a nemesis for Lon Kruger in his stay here at UNLV. The Rebels to this point certainly have not looked like the team that was picked to win the Mountain West this year.
The team appeared visibly upset after losing back-to-back home games to Cal and Cincinnati earlier this month. It certainly appeared to this fan that the team had not come together and was sorely missing the leadership of Curtis Terry from a year ago.
With Wink Adams leading the way and the punishing defense that held the Wildcats in check throughout the game, the Rebels went on a 15-0 run in the second half to put the Wildcats away. Even the Arizona radio broadcast team noted that the Rebels defense was the best they have seen this year.
And let's not forget: this is the same team that beat previously 4th ranked Gonzaga last Sunday.
The game also featured another ourtstanding performance for Rene Rougeau, who has been without a doubt the teams heart and soul. He scored 12 points and had 9 rebounds.
Tre'Von Willis, the Memphis transfer, was outstanding, contributing 19 points and 6 rebounds. His play paced the Rebels, who shot 43% from the floor and a season-high 45% (14 for 31) from 3-point range.
The next gigantic test comes next week for the Rebels when they face the Louisville Cardinals. Rick Pitino is smarting from their 70-64 loss to Minnesota, and will have his team ready. With a victory in Louisville, the Rebels will clearly be ready for conference play beginning in 2009.
Today's win was certainly a step in the right direction. If Lon Kruger is going to take this Rebels team to the big dance once again, he is going to have see more stellar performances like the one that over 16,600 Rebel fans saw today.