Coach's Corner with Lon Kruger

We had our first game on Thursday night in Sutherland, Australia, and lost to the Sutherland Sharks, 72-64. I thought we played just okay as could have been expected. We had a little bit of jet lag and I thought in the second half we got our legs under us and worked harder. We made the extra pass better in the second half, but didn't shoot it very well all night.

Shooting will be a strength of this club and all told, it was a really good experience with a lot of good learning opportunities from which we will benefit.

I think our team responded very well to the 14-hour flight over to Sydney, but that next day after you get here is always the most difficult. We opened a little sluggish and weary and then got into it more as the game went on, but this is all part of the learning opportunity and will be good for us.

Seven-foot freshman center Beas Hamga played very well against Sutherland. He had double figures in rebounds (10), changed some shots defensively, scored some buckets on the offensive end and I thought generally looked very comfortable, playing with good poise. It was the first time he played in a game as a Rebel after redshirting last season.

Also coming off a redshirt season was guard Tre'Von Willis, a transfer from Memphis who also played in his first game as a Runnin' Rebel. He has been practicing much better than what he showed in this game. He played a little too quickly and a little fast and sped up all night, but I think that was due to his excitement and enthusiasm for finally playing. He will learn from that.

We play again on Friday and Saturday night. We are really more concerned about our play than who we play, but we expect the teams the next couple of nights to be a little stronger in terms of experience. We will learn from our first game in terms of we have to do better and I think we will shoot it a lot better than we did.

We had an opportunity today to tour the Sydney Opera House, which was great. It is one of the unique buildings in the world and to hear about the construction of it and all the difficulties with the construction makes it even more remarkable. Australian folks are so friendly and very hospitable and make you feel very comfortable that you are here. Even the coaches and players on the Sutherland team were very complimentary of our guys and appreciated them being here.

The opportunity to play games this time of year and the experience that we are gaining is invaluable, especially with the four seniors and the leadership role they have to take. Besides Beas and Tre'Von coming off redshirt years, Joe Darger and René Rougeau are moving back out to the perimeter. These are areas that we can learn and gain experience from now as opposed to in November, and that makes this trip very important.

Be sure to check back on Friday here to read about tonight's game with the Illawara Seahawks. Also, check the UNLV official athletics website, UNLVRebels.com, for further coverage of our trip. Click on the Runnin' Down Under graphic to follow the details of the trip.


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