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Rebels run away from Wolf Pack

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” The Nevada basketball team played good defense for a half. The Wolf Pack shot the ball poorly the entire game.

It added up to a 64-57 loss to in-state rival UNLV before a crowd of 9,498 fans at Lawlor Events Center on Saturday.

Nevada dropped to 3-4 overall, while UNLV improved to 7-2 after its second consecutive road win. It was UNLV’s third consecutive win over Nevada, and the second at Lawlor.

The Wolf Pack went 17-for-50 from the field, including a season-low 14.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. There were some shots that went in and out, but there were plenty of wide-open misses.

“I think I’ll give credit to their defense,” said Nevada freshman forward Luke Babbitt, who scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “They played real tough defense. We had a lot of shots go in and out. It wasn’t our night offensively.”

“I can’t say that I saw a ton of bad shots,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “Even one of the officials came over and said there was a lid on the basket.”

Any basketball coach will tell you that if the shots aren’t dropping you have to step it up a level defensively, and Nevada was unable to do that in the second half.

“We played good defense for a half,” Fox said. “When shots don’t fall it puts pressure on the defense.”

Nevada held UNLV to 32 percent from the floor in the first half en route to leaving the floor with a 22-20 lead. Had Nevada shot better than 29 percent, the lead would have been much bigger.

“The first half they were taking us out of our offense,” said UNLV star Wink Adams, who scored 11 points and pulled down six rebounds. “They forced us to take shots we didn’t want to take.”

The Wolf Pack led 16-12 with 6 minutes, 31 seconds remaining, but UNLV went on an 8-0 run for a 20-16 lead. Rene Rougeau (19 points, 13 rebounds) scored the first six UNLV points and Joe Darger ended the run with a nice drive on the baseline.

Nevada didn’t help itself in that stretch, going 0-for-3 from the floor, turning the ball over once and missing the front ends of one-and-one situations twice.

After Darger’s basket made it 20-16, Armon Johnson, Babbitt and Brandon Fields scored to give the Pack a 22-20 lead.

The start of the second half set the tone for the rest of the contest.

Two buckets by Rougeau and a three by Oscar Bellfield (17 points) lead an 11-2 run that enabled UNLV to open up a 31-24 lead. Darris Santee added a bucket and Adams two free throws in that span.

“I’m pretty disappointed with our start of the second half on defense,” Fox said. “It’s been an issue with this team. Tonight was a reoccurence. It’s something we have to address.”

UNLV did a good job of dribble penetration and kicking the ball outside to either Rougeau, who went 8-for-16, and Bellfield, who went 5-for-8. Bellfield was averaging only 6.4 points per game. Rougeau was averaging 8.9 and tied his career high at 19.

“In the second half, we were more aggressive,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “We got better looks in the second half. When we make good penetration and try to make plays for somebody else, we have good success.

“Oscar made some big plays. Wink had a couple of nice drives (and dishes). We moved the ball well.”

Babbitt knocked down a 3-pointer and then drained two free throws to make it 33-29 with 14:42 remaining.

Rougeau and Adams scored four apiece to lead an 8-3 surge to get the lead to 39-29. Nevada, led by Armon Johnson (21 points), bounced right back with a 9-3 lead to slice UNLV’s lead to 42-38. Johnson scored six and Ray Kraemer knocked in a 3-pointer.

UNLV made another big run moments later, outscoring Nevada 13-4 in a span of 3 minutes, 18 seconds. It was classic penetrate and dish, and Nevada was defenseless to stop it.

Bellfield drained a 3-pointer and then he and Babbitt traded two free throws apiece. Johnson cut it to 47-42 with 5:55 to go, but another three by Bellfield and a three-point play by Rougeau made it 53-42.

Babbitt and Johnson were the only Nevada players to have success offensively against the aggressive Rebels defense.

“Babbitt is such a good player,” Kruger said. “He’s a tough matchup because he can go out on the floor and score inside. he’s also a good rebounder. Armon is really good. We tried to give them extra attention.”

There was always more than UNLV player around whenever Babbitt or Johnson tried to work their way inside.

The strategy made sense because the rest of the team went 6-for-22 from the floor, including 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281