Double whammy: Rebs lose Kruger, game

LARAMIE – Just five days ago it appeared that UNLV was on the verge of cracking the Top 25 thanks to a 10-game win streak. But after losing to Wyoming, 86-76, in overtime on Wednesday night at the Arena-Auditorium, the Rebels (14-4, 1-2) find themselves limping into Saturday night's key MWC game with BYU (12-4, 2-0) with a two-game losing streak. The key word here is limping.

Senior point guard Kevin Kruger left Wednesday night's contest after just 2:22 with a deep thigh bruise. And star forward Wendell White, who finished with a career-high 30 points, rolled his left ankle again late in the second half.

Still, the Rebels had an excellent chance to win the game, building up an 11-point lead, 54-43, with 9:08 remaining after holding the Cowboys (11-5, 2-0) without a field goal for over 10 minutes during a 21-6 run.

But Wyoming, behind the play of guards Brandon Ewing (30 points, 19 of 22 free throws) and Brad Jones (24 points, 9 of 11 free throws), repeatedly beat UNLV's guards off the dribble to the basket for field goals or free throws.

Forward James Spencer drove to the basket to tie the game, 71-71, with 25 seconds left leaving UNLV one last possession to win in regulation.

But guard Wink Adams (nine points on just 2 of 11 shooting) was swarmed as he drove to the basket and didn't come close on his shot. Center Joel Anthony picked up the rebound and heaved up a 12-footer from the middle of the key at the buzzer that also wasn't close.

In a two-and-half hour game that featured 52 fouls and 73 free throws, the officiating crew of Verne Harris, Mark Whitehead and Shawn Lehigh decided to swallow their whistles although television replays seemed to indicate that Adams was mugged.

"(I) drove the lane and there were a lot of hands involved," Adams said. "But on the road you've just got to play through it."

With Kruger and starting center Gaston Essengue (fouled out) on the sidelines, UNLV seemed to run out of gas in overtime. The Cowboys scored on all but one of their first eight possessions.

"We just didn't have that much intensity on defense," said White, who refused to use Kruger's injury as an alibi. "They wanted it more than we did."

"We definitely have to work on how to close out games," Adams added. "We've got to contain the dribble better. Jones got to the lane all day. Ewing also had a nice stretch. We've got to come out and contain the ball a little better."

"Those two little guards (Ewing and Jones) made up their minds in the second half that they were not going to let us lose," Wyoming coach Steve McClain said. "They both hit key free throws down the stretch and that's not easy when you're going to the line time after time knowing the game is on the line."

Wyoming finished with a 33-20 edge in made free throws.

Kevin Kruger, who suffered the injury while trying to fight through a screen at the top of the key, said he took a knee to the same area in his left thigh that also got hit during Saturday's 56-50 loss at Air Force.

How close did he come to returning?

"Not very," Kruger said glumly outside.

What are the chances he'll be back for BYU on Saturday night? "One-hundred percent," Kruger said.

Not so fast said his father, UNLV coach Lon Kruger. "He obviously couldn't go tonight," Lon Kruger said. "We'll have to see how it responds overnight … whether there is additional swelling, additional stiffness."

Despite the disappointing 1-2 conference start, Lon Kruger urged his team to stay positive afterward.

"Its early in the conference," Kruger said. "We've still got a long ways to go. We've got to keep getting better, get back home and continue to improve."

"We're pretty down," White said before boarding a bus for a long three-hour trip to Denver where the team will fly back to Las Vegas on Thursday. "But we've got to get ready for the next game now. We can't dwell on this. We've got to get ready for … BYU."

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