Coach's Corner with Lon Kruger

Editor's Note: UNLV evened its record at 1-1 during its six-game Australian tour with a 77-75 win over the Illawarra Seahawks on Friday night. Here are Runnin' Rebel head coach Lon Kruger's thoughts on the game as well as how players like Rene Rougeau and Joe Darger are getting accustomed to their new positions.

We were much sharper Friday night in our 77-75 win against the Illawarra Seahawks. Our guys had their legs under them much better than in Thursday night's game. That second day of travel after you fly such a long distance is always the hardest to get ready to play, and I thought that showed in our first game, especially with our shooting.

We had much more intensity, activity and bounce in our step on Friday and also shot it very well against a club that was older, bigger and more experienced than the first team we played.

René Rougeau, especially, had one of those signature games for him with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven steals against the Seahawks. He was all over the floor setting the tone on both ends of the court.

Mareceo Rutledge continued to play more aggressively. He made shots and also rebounded the ball well. His 19 points led all scorers against Illawarra and he had eight rebounds. Tre'Von Willis scored 17 points and played much better and he was a lot more comfortable than he was in the opener. It is nice to see those guys all stepping up.

Anytime you play on a foreign tour, equally important to the games that you play are the 10 days of practice leading up to the trip. Our guys really got a lot out of that and benefitted, especially being able to play occasionally against some of our former players. Joe Darger is one player that has benefitted especially by getting a lot of good looks. He is much more comfortable out on the perimeter at his natural wing position and continues to shoot the ball well there.

Matt Shaw's knee injury – he'll sit out the upcoming season after surgery next month to repair a torn ACL -- probably increases the necessity of incoming recruits like Darris Santee and Brice Massamba to be ready to step in and play more minutes. Depending on how their progress goes will affect whether or not Joe still spends time inside at the five position. Hopefully the two new players will eat up those minutes and will leave Joe out there on the floor.

We have quite a few supporters of our UNLV program that have come on the trip with us. It is the biggest following on a foreign trip that we have ever had. In fact, the organization that put the trip together, Basketball Travelers, said it's the second-largest group they have ever had travel. It is very positive and, based on their comments, they are having a terrific time and will continue to do so throughout the remainder of the trip.

We will wrap up the Sydney portion of our trip with a game Saturday afternoon (Sydney time) and then leave on Sunday for Brisbane and a tour of the Gold Coast and Surfer's Paradise, which the guys are anxiously looking forward to.

Be sure to check back on Tuesday for another Coach's Corner column from Australia. You also should check out the Runnin' Down Under page at UNLVRebels.com for game reports, blogs, photos and videos.


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