Rusty Rebels rally to defeat Wyoming, 77-71

Following an eight day layoff after an impressive 70-41 win over BYU, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were predictably a little flat at the start of Wednesday night's contest against hot-shooting Wyoming. But the Rebels (14-4, 3-1), led by junior guard Wink Adams, turned up the defensive intensity in the second half to rally for a 77-71 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center,

Adams, who had had been mired in a bad three-game shooting slump before the break, scored a career-high 33 points, including 7 of 8 free throws in the final 56 seconds, to lead the Rebels, who trailed by as many as 10 points (38-28) late in the first half.

Adams had connected on just 3 of 23 3-point attempts (13 percent) and 8 of 36 overall field goal tries (22.2 percent) in his three previous Mountain West Conference games. But he ended that shooting slump in dramatic fashion by going 9 of 21 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.

Although his team looked rusty in the first half, UNLV coach Lon Kruger felt the layoff helped his team, especially Adams.

"Wink put in a lot of extra time (during the break)," Kruger said. "It's great to see the results of that hard work. Wink always works hard but I think last week was the hardest I've seen him work since I've been here."

Adams said he spent an extra hour before each practice working on his shot.

"Coach (Lew) Hill had me coming in an hour before practice and making 125 shots," Adams said. "He had me shooting a little more after practice. … Whenever you can get a week off and just practice and get up shots and get some physical workouts in, it's always good."

Just liked he had eight days earlier against BYU, Adams started the game by connecting on his first trey attempt. The difference this time around is he didn't miss his last eight 3-pointers. He also mixed in several mid-range jumpers to go along with 12 free throws attempts of which he sank 11.

"When I hit my first two or three shots, my coaches and teammates kept telling me to keep shooting and just play physical," Adams said. "I think I did a great job of doing that tonight."

The layoff seemed to affect UNLV more on the defensive end in the first half, just like it had 11 days earlier at Air Force where the Rebels also looked a step behind. Wyoming, led by longtime Rebel nemesis Brandon Ewing (26 points, 6 of 13 3-pointers), took full advantage in building up a surprising 40-32 halftime edge.

The angry Rebels regrouped at halftime and opened the second half with a 16-2 run en route to a 48-42 lead.

"(Wyoming) just dominated us on the boards and got a lot of wide-open looks," Adams said. "We needed to rotate on defense and get into them and play more physical basketball like we did against BYU."

Wyoming still battled back to tie it, 60-60, on a short jumper by guard Tyson Johnson with 5:18 left, but the Rebels took the lead for good on a layup by Marcus Lawrence off a nice feed by Curtis Terry. Adams followed that up a short time later with another 3-pointer. He then came up with a steal and fed Lawrence for another layup to make it 67-61.

Wyoming never got any closer than four points after that as Adams, the Mountain West Conference free throw leader (90.2 percent), converted 9 of 10 free throws in the final 2:32 including 7 of 8 in the last 56 seconds.

Wyoming finished a big 45-30 edge on the boards but the Rebels balanced that out by just committing a season-low two turnovers. UNLV finished with a 19-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

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