A happy Houston homecoming, 78-62

HOUSTON – Thanks to Houston products Wink Adams and Michael Umeh, UNLV had almost as many fans in attendance for Saturday night's game with the University of Houston as the hometown Cougars did at Hofheinz Pavilion. Turns out the Runnin' Rebel contingent had a lot more to cheer about.

UNLV (13-2) extended its win streak to nine in a row with a convincing 78-62 victory over the Cougars (5-6) to complete an impressive two-game sweep of its Texas road trip that began with Thursday night's 74-66 nationally-televised victory over Bob Knight and Texas Tech in Lubbock.

Adams, a product of Gulf Shores Academy in Houston who said he had about 25 friends and family in the estimated crowd of about 800, scored a game-high 17 points and came up just one rebound short of his first double-double with nine.

"I'm happy we got the win, that's the biggest thing," Adams said. "I've been thinking about this (game) since November. … I haven't been home in a long time so just to come here and play in front of friends and family feels great."

The Rebels fell behind, 6-0, at the start of the game and didn't even score a point until senior center Gaston Essengue, who finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, swished a 16-footer with 15:45 left in the first half.

But UNLV went on a 16-5 run over the next seven minutes, taking advantage of some questionable shot selection by the Cougars who were a dreadful 3 of 24 (12.5 percent) from 3-point range in the first half and 5 of 36 (13.9 percent) for the game.

UNLV led by eight, 34-26, at halftime and built its lead to 20, 68-48, with 8:12 to go in the game on a 3-pointer by junior swingman Curtis Terry.

Part of Houston's shooting woes could be attributed to good UNLV defense, especially on screen-and-rolls at the top of the key. But the Cougars did themselves no favors by repeatedly jacking up long treys early into the shot clock.

"They shot a lot of three's, that's their M.O.," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "They've done it all year. I thought we decently contested the majority of them. Obviously, when they're way out there, it's harder to guard them.

"(Houston) just attacks you off the dribble and space the floor and that's it. And they're pretty good at it when they get it going. We were very concerned. I thought we were pretty solid (defensively) early and made some good switches and contested shots."

Point guard Kevin Kruger (13 points, seven assists, two steals) and forward Wendell White (14 points, six rebounds, two blocks) also finished in double-figures for the Rebels while Terry (nine points, 3-of-3 3-pointers) continued his hot outside shooting.

The Rebels now enter Mountain West Conference play on Wednesday against Utah at the Thomas & Mack Center with their longest win streak since a 23-gamer in 1991-92 in Jerry Tarkanian's final year as head coach.

"We know now that it's only a starting point and that we've got to continue to make progress and prepare for a very, very tough league," Lon Kruger said.


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