A milestone day for Lon: Win No. 400

Going into Saturday afternoon's game with Colorado State at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV coach Lon Kruger tried to downplay the importance of potentially picking up career coaching win No. 400. Obviously, his players weren't buying any of it.

After the Runnin' Rebels (18-5, 7-2) started the second half of Mountain West Conference play with a convincing 68-51 victory over the Rams, Kruger got a special reception from his team in the UNLV locker room.

"We congratulated him when he got back to the locker room," senior guard Curtis Terry, who had a career-high 11 assists in just 22 minutes of action, said. "Everybody had a little group hug and a little tear for him. It's good to be able to get that for coach and to be apart of that. … Hopefully we can keep winning this year and add more to his illustrious record."

"It's definitely good when you can help get your coach that kind of recognition," added guard Rene Rougeau, who finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds. "We're really proud of him. He's such a good coach. We're definitely glad that we got the win for him tonight."

A very upbeat Kruger admitted afterward that the win "feels great.

"Anytime you can win it feels great whether its (number) 400 or 50. It feels great. It's a credit to a lot of good players that we've had and a lot of teams that we've had. So a lot of people share in that but it feels very good."

No doubt the way the Rebels played in presenting him win No. 400 made the victory even more special.

Unlike their 81-73 loss at Utah on Wednesday night, the Rebels were the more physical team and played their trademark suffocating man-to-man defense while also playing unselfishly on offense, garnering 21 assists on 26 baskets.

The Rebels held Colorado State to just one field goal in the final 9:42 of the first half while expanding a 17-14 lead into a 31-16 halftime advantage. UNLV then opened the second half with a 18-8 run to increase its lead to 25 points, 49-24, and cruised home with the easy win.

How stifling was the Rebel defense? Despite shooting a dismal 30.0 percent from the floor in the first half, the Rebels still led by 15 points because they attempted an amazing 19 more field goals (40 to 21) thanks to a big 27-16 rebounding edge (including 13 to 1 on the offensive boards) and also because they had nine steals while forcing 10 turnovers.

UNLV finished the game with a 42-39 advantage in rebounding which was even more impressive considering the Rams played not one but two 7-footers (Ronnie Aguilar and Stuart Creason) in the post. Yet, the scrappy Rebels finished with a 30-24 edge in points in the paint.

Guard Wink Adams led the way offensively with 23 points, including 19 in the first half when most of his teammates were chucking brick after brick at the hoop.

"I thought for 40 minutes a pretty good effort," Kruger said. "All around good awareness, good focus and (we) moved the ball around really well for each other. We made a lot of good plays for each. … Defensively I thought we were real sound and real solid for the most part."

So not too bad a way to pick up win No. 400, huh?

"At the start of the year I couldn't have told you if the next 100 mark was 300, 400 or 500," Kruger said. "I had no idea. It's not a big deal." Kruger was asked if he could remember win No. 1? And his answer had a touch of irony to it.

"I actually do," Kruger, who was head coach at Texas Pan American in 1982, said. "Not any details, I just remember who it was against … Air Force. That goes back a long way."

And who is next on the Rebels' schedule? How about Air Force on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"I'd much prefer the next one against Air Force as opposed to the first one," Kruger said with a smile.

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