Back on track

SALT LAKE CITY -- So just how would UNLV respond to its dismal 67-52 loss at San Diego State on Tuesday night? Toss out the first eight minutes and the Runnin' Rebels played their best game of the Mountain West Conference campaign.

With sophomore forward Joe Darger (9 points, 3 of 4 3-pointers) providing a big spark off the bench in and guard Wink Adams finishing with the first double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) of his career, UNLV (22-6, 9-4) bounced back with a convincing 70-57 victory over Utah (9-16, 4-8) at the Huntsman Center.

The Runnin' Rebels won easily despite a dismal start that saw them easy shot after easy shot while falling behind, 15-6, in the first eight minutes. And star forward Wendell White struggled badly, finishing with a season low two points on 1 of 12 shooting.

"Wendell hasn't had many like that so we'll give him that one," UNLV coach Lon Kruger joked afterward. "The other guys stepped up in great shape and made shots."

And no one stepped up bigger than Darger, who had seen his playing time reduced recently in part of his shooting slump.

Coming into the Utah game, Darger, who was playing in front of about 30 friends and family from nearby Riverton, had scored just three points in his three previous games combined and hadn't hit a 3-pointer in four games. In fact, he had scored just 15 total points since a Jan. 23 game against San Diego State, connecting on just 2 of 11 treys in the six-game span.

But Darger hit three consecutive 3-pointers against the Utes, including bookend treys during a 16-0 run by the Rebels early in the second half after Utah had closed to within three points, 33-30.

Darger also had a 3-pointer to help highlight a remarkable 18-0 UNLV run in the first half that saw the Runnin' Rebels hold the Utes scoreless for 8 ½ minutes.

There were plenty of other positives for the Rebels Saturday.

* The Rebels committed a season-low four turnovers while forcing 12 by the Utes.

* The Rebels made 11 of 17 3-pointers (64.7 percent).

* During one 15:24 stretch at the end of the first half and the start of the second half, UNLV outscored the Utes, 37-11.

* After UNLV's 16-0 spurt early in the second half extended UNLV's lead to 49-30, the Utes (9-16, 4-8) never got closer than 13 points the rest of the game.

Talk about domination.

"Thirty-two minutes I thought of really solid basketball," Kruger said. "Offensively, defensively they were just very sound. … I thought our communication and awareness defensively was outstanding."

"It was very important to come back and get this win," Adams said. "To lose like that at San Diego State last week … it was very important to get this win."


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