Rebels put pressure on Nevill, shut down Runnin’ Utes

By Marco Villano, Staff Writer

The Runnin’ Utes encountered the same ill fate as their southern rivals against the team from Sin City on Saturday.

Despite holding an 11-point lead two minutes into the second half against the Runnin’ Rebels, Utah failed to overcome UNLV’s enormous second half, losing 75-65.

The rebounding, defense and overall shooting ability that Utah showed in the first half was absent in the second8212;ultimately leading to UNLV outscoring the Utes 45-27 in the second period.

“We didn’t handle adversity well in the second half,” said head coach Jim Boylen. “UNLV made a run and we didn’t finish plays on our end.”

The Rebel guards, Wink Adams and Tre’Von Willis, took control of the game in the second half, leading the comeback with a combined 22 points. Willis, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., scored a game- and career-high 22 points.

Adams was the main benefactor in the comeback for Las Vegas.

Ute guard Lawrence Bohra did a good job shutting down Adams in the first half, holding him to two points on 1-of-3 shooting. But Adams responded hot off the gates in the second, putting up 10 of his overall 14 points in the first six minutes.

“We played some solid defense for that first 10 minutes of the second half,” Boylen said. “Wink made some tough, contested shots, falling away with a hand in his face. We didn’t react well to that.”

UNLV took its first lead of the game around the 12-minute mark in the second half with a score of 53-50, after back-to-back 3-pointers by Mareceo Rutledge. At that point, the 15,080 fans in the Thomas and Mack Center were back in the game, and the undersized Rebels team fed off that energy.

Shaun Green answered Rutledge’s three with one of his own, but that was the final bucket for five minutes and UNLV seized that opportunity with an 8-0 run.

“I think the key to the game was when they put Rutledge at the five (position),” Boylen said. “They went small and he made two 3-pointers. We want to try to take away a team’s main players and make their support players beat us. Rutledge is a support player and he beat us tonight.”

Just as the Utes expected heading into this game, Luke Nevill was double- and even triple-teamed at times by the Runnin’ Rebels, resulting in him scoring just 14 points, going 6-for-12 from the field. Utah’s guards tried to force the ball to him throughout the whole game, which was a big contribution to the 18 turnovers they had.

“A couple of times in the paint we found Luke and he got fouled, when we could have had that bucket,” Boylen said. “That was their strategy on him8212;as soon as he got a good look, they gave up a foul.”

Luka Drca, Bohra and Green had 11 points each. Drca’s line was impressive, as he added five assists and seven rebounds.

The Utes are now 12-7 overall and 3-2 in the Mountain West Conference heading into Tuesday’s rival game against BYU in the Huntsman Center. The Rebels are in position to retake control of the league they dominated last season, at 16-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference.

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Lennie Mahler

Jim Boylen and the Utes held an 11-point lead over UNLV on Saturday. Utah could not hold onto the lead and lost by eight.