No Kruger, no problem

Getting back to the .500 mark in Mountain West Conference play is normally not a big reason to celebrate. But for UNLV, which had to bounce-back from two tough road losses at Air Force and Wyoming, Saturday night's 83-75 over BYU couldn't have tasted any better.

Start with the fact the Rebels (15-4, 2-2) had to play without arguably their most valuable player, point guard Kevin Kruger, who watched in street clothes with a badly bruised thigh. Then toss in the fact the Cougars (12-5, 2-1) came in off impressive back-to-back conference wins over San Diego State and TCU. And don't overlook the fact UNLV was looking at a very big hole to climb out of if it had fallen to 1-3.

But after falling behind by as many as 11 points midway through the first half to the hot-shooting Cougars, the Rebels turned up the defensive intensity a notch and finally began to hit some 3-pointers.

Sophomore Wink Adams (career-high 27 points, 4 of 7 treys) led the way while senior forward Wendell White had his sixth double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

The Rebels also got big lifts off the bench from guards Corey Bailey (10 points, 3 steals) and Curtis Terry (8 points).

"It goes without saying how important that is," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said of the win. "To be at home and playing against such a good ballclub as BYU, and getting back to .500 in the conference. And getting a little bounce-back.

"I thought Wendell was great throughout and Wink, especially in the second half, looked like the Wink we need to show every night. A lot of guys made good plays. I thought Marcus (Lawrence) did a good job in there (at point guard in place of Kevin Kruger) keeping us going."

Adams scored 19 of his points in the second half when he seemed to take over the game offensively.

"He really did," Kruger said. "That is the kind of Wink we need, the kind of Wink we know is there. I thought he really sparked us in the second half. He kind of jumped in there with Wendell and kind of gave us a really good one-two punch throughout the last 20 minutes."

Not to be overlooked was also an outstanding defensive job by UNLV big men Gaston Essengue and Joel Anthony on 6-foot-11 BYU center Trent Plaisted. Plaisted finished with 13 points but had just one in the second half.

"We gave up maybe a few perimeter jumpers because we helped a little bit more on him in the second half," Kruger said. "But he's just a guy that demands extra attention. He's that good of a player."

UNLV now has a week to rest up and hopefully get Kruger back before traveling to Fort Worth to face TCU.


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