Rebels roll past New Mexico, 79-60

"You've got to respect perfection," UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger was saying late Saturday night. "Those guys – it's the focus – which is what we talk about all the time, and playing each possession like it's the one to determine the outcome of the game." So exactly which team was Kruger talking about?

No, it wasn't his UNLV Runnin' Rebel squad which had just demolished New Mexico, 79-60, at the Thomas & Mack Center, although he easily could have been.

No, Kruger was admiring the New England Patriots and their shot at a perfect 19-0 record in Sunday's Super Bowl.

"They have a perfect season going, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't end up perfect tomorrow," Kruger said.

For about 30 minutes on Saturday, the Rebels (17-4, 6-1) played about as perfect a game as they could in ruining Steve Alford's Thomas & Mack coaching debut with the Lobos (16-6, 3-4).

The Runnin' Rebels held New Mexico to just five points in the first 10 ½ minutes of action and led by as many as 30 points (64-34) midway through the second half of this laugher.

UNLV's pressure defense recorded nine steals and forced 16 turnovers … and that was just in the first half en route to a 40-20 halftime advantage.

"I thought the guys opened up with really good energy," Kruger said of his squad which won its fifth straight game. "They forced a lot of turnovers early. New Mexico is a good basketball team. We got after them pretty good early and created some offense from the turnovers. And then we had pretty motion and activity on the offensive end, guys making good plays for each other.

"The focus and the intensity for the first 32 to 35 minutes was pretty solid."

You'd get no argument from the Lobos on that end.

"They're tough, they're physical and we just didn't match them," Alford said simply.

Junior guard Wink Adams led the way offensively for the Rebels with a game-high 24 points and 3 steals while junior forward Joe Darger added 17 points.

The Rebels, winners of 10 of their last 11 games, shot 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the floor and forced 22 turnovers which resulted in a huge 24-7 advantage in points off turnovers.

"We forced a lot of turnovers early," Kruger said. "I think it surprised them a little bit. … Tonight our guys won a lot of battles and lined up and competed awfully hard."

The Rebels had 20 assists on their 28 baskets, a statistic that didn't go unnoticed by Kruger.

"Guys are doing a great job of moving the ball to each other and making the extra pass," Kruger said. "As much as any group I've ever been around I don't think they ever look at a stat sheet. They don't care at all about individual stuff, and yet they just keep making plays for each other. And that's a good quality to have."

"This team has a little bit more chemistry than we had last year," Adams said. "This team, we do a lot of things together. Even off the court we're always together. Every day we're getting better and better."

The Rebels remained in a tie for first place in the Mountain West Conference with preseason favorite BYU.

Inside the Rebels Top Stories