Rebels sack the Pack, 58-49

RENO – Wink Adams was just six years old the last time it had happened. "It" would be the last time UNLV's Runnin Rebels had defeated a ranked non-conference team on the road. That was a Feb. 10, 1991 at No. 2 Arkansas, 112-105. But UNLV (7-2) finally snapped that 15-year drought on Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center with a 58-49 upset of 20th-ranked Nevada (7-1).

The Runnin' Rebels had 14 steals, forced 21 turnovers and held Wolf Pack center Nick Fazekas, a two-time WAC Player of the Year, without a point over a 25½ minute stretch.

In fact, it looked for a while as though UNLV was going to blow the Wolf Pack out, building up 21-point leads twice early in the second half.

But Nevada took advantage of some poor Runnin' Rebel outside shooting to put together a 17-2 run to close within six points, 50-44, on an eight-foot baseline jumper by Fazekas with 2:27 remaining.

It was the first basket of the second half by the 6-foot-11 All-American and his first points since the 7:53 mark of the first half. Still, he would finish with 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Nevada twice had a chance to cut the lead to four but missed three close-in shots on one possession and turned it over on another when guard Marcellus Kemp stepped out of bounds.

Then Adams sealed the win with a high 15-foot baseline jumper that seemed to loop over the backboard with 1:14 to go to put UNLV ahead, 52-44. Nevada never got closer than seven points after that.

"It's a big win," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "It's tough to beat ranked people on the road. Obviously it's a good win for us. Nevada has played awfully well all year and they have a lot of confidence and a terrific player in Fazekas.

"I thought our guys really fought. I thought they really battled, especially in the first half … took them out of things that they wanted to run. We really had our best focus offensively in the first half. We got a little tentative there late (offensively), kind of waiting for the clock to run out which you can't do. But still it's an awfully good win."

Nevada came into the game averaging 80.9 points per contest and hadn't scored fewer than 75 points in a game.

UNLV held a 24-7 edge in points off turnovers.

"Their defense forced us to turn the ball over," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. Turnovers are a major factor in the game. We played better in the second half. We had to go small. Our big lineup could not match up and we had to adjust. Give UNLV credit, they are a good basketball team."

The Runnin' Rebels had very balanced scoring with players scoring eight or more led by guard Wendell White's 12 points and nine rebounds. Senior forward Gaston Essengue, perhaps the star of the game because of his defense on Fazekas, was the only other player in double figures with 10 points and five rebounds.

UNLV's bench also came up big with center Joel Anthony scoring eight points and blocking two shots in 14 minutes of action and guard Curtis Terry adding five points and a game-high four steals.

"This was huge for us," point guard Kevin Kruger, who had nine points, seven assists and two steals, said. "We want to get the UNLV program back to the way it was in the glory days."

Saturday night's win was a good start.


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