Big Week for Runnin' Rebels
I had to laugh a little today while watching UNLV play Utah at the Thomas and Mack Center. I chuckled under my breath a bit because Marceo Rutledge nailed two 3-pointers that suddenly swept UNLV’s lagging effort and provided the gumption that the Rebels needed to eventually pull out the 10 point victory. I laughed a little because Rutledge’s sudden burst of offensive energy sums up this week in Rebel basketball.
In a road game at BYU on Wednesday, UNLV dropped by 13 points as the Cougars rendered the Rebels helpless. After halftime, suddenly the Rebels, led by Wink Adams, jumped on the Cougars and eventually won by 7. In today’s effort, UNLV trailed by 8 into the half, was down by as many as 12, but pursued the Utah Runnin’s Utes with more energy and vigor than was seen in the first half. The Rebels may be gunning for the “Most Thrilling Comebacks” award in the NCAA. Their performances support this claim. They often display sub-par efforts in the first half, but in the second, they awake from their sleep and ride into the sunset victoriously. One thing is certain: they may not always play pretty basketball, but they are constantly making things exciting.
Right now, the Rebels are showing that they are certainly a second half team. Of course, the most obvious upside to this is factor is that they can finish a game off. They have evidently learned from last minute situations and tough road losses, and they are proving that they can play together and hustle when it counts. The downside: They are often leaving a lot of room for the opposing team to gain confidence. This week, those opposing teams saw their leads dwindle to nothing. However, this kind of play will cause trouble in future road games that include Utah, SDSU, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Luckily, the Rebels’ second halves are proving that they can play to their potential; however, they will need to take the next week to tighten up their game on both sides of the floor from the start and focus on a total game effort. This will make them the best team in the league.
Positives: First, Wink Adams is showing glimmering signs of a comeback. He had a huge game in Provo, and a solid effort over Utah. Secondly, Marceo Rutledge and Kendall Wallace are big time bench players. Their instant 3s provide needed offense in times of trouble. Lastly, Tre’Von Willis should always be the starting point guard. Willis has shown the most improvements this season. He has not always been a starter, but he takes whatever role the coach provides. Willis gives UNLV confidence and presence on both sides of the court.
This week was a landmark week for the Rebels. It is followed up by a much-needed week of rest (well, practice). The Rebels look ahead to Air Force. Again, on paper, with Air Force at the bottom of the conference, UNLV should win (even on the road). However, CSU showed UNLV that anything can happen, but has UNLV learned this important lesson? Then, after playing SDSU at home, UNLV starts the conference rounds again. The next set of games includes tougher road games than those they have already faced where the Rebels must respond accordingly.
Like I said, I laughed a bit to myself today as I watched the team that I love to see play. Right now, Rebel fans sit on the edges of their seats while their team makes each match-up an exciting show. Whether or not the national scene recognizes it, MWC fans have to give credit to the Rebels who began this week 3rd from the bottom of the conference, and tonight (depending on how some match-ups go) could end the week at the very top. It is a wacky Mountain West, but the Rebels are proving that they can lead the pack.