For the second straight game, UNLV has turned a halftime deficit into a conference victory.
The Rebels trailed by eight points at the break, but stormed back to defeat Utah 75-65 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
On Wednesday, UNLV trailed Brigham Young by 13 at the break before rallying for the road victory.
Saturday, it was an 8-point halftime deficit that grew to as high as 11 on two occasions in the second half.
“The start at BYU was awful. The start today, Utah did great,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought our effort was good. We couldn’t quite get a handle on what we wanted to do defensively. Offensively, we weren’t quite there. It wasn’t like the start at BYU. Utah had a lot more to do with it today, but yeah, we’d like to put two good halves together.”
Tre’Von Willis led all scorers with 22. He added six assists and three steals in his best game as a Rebel.
Wink Adams and Rene Rougeau added 14 points apiece. Mareceo Rutledge had nine points and seven rebounds in just 15 minutes of action.
Adams was pivotal early in the second half for the Rebels.
He scored the first eight points after halftime, including a pair of free throws. The effort was key in not allowing Utah to extend the lead any further before the Rebels began their comeback.
Luke Nevill led four players in double figures for the Utes, who hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range.
Luka Drca, Lawrence Borha and Shaun Green all had 11 points.
UNLV had 12 steals in the game and had 21 points off of 18 Utah turnovers.
Mareceo Rutledge came to UNLV with the reputation of being a big-time shooter.
He really hasn’t lived up to the hype in that regard.
Rutledge has developed into a solid defender and surprisingly effective rebounder, but his outside shot has been almost non-existent.
He picked a good time to find it.
Rutledge hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with about 12:30 left, then got a steal that led to a Tre’Von Willis jumper that put UNLV ahead for the first time since very early in the game.
After a Utah basket, Rutledge hit yet another 3-pointer.
It was a run that eventually put the Rebels in front. Not surprisingly, it came with Luke Nevill sitting on the bench.
Rutledge finished the game with nine points and seven rebounds.
BELLFIELD GROWING BY THE GAME
The Rebels appeared hesitant at time to take the ball inside as Luke Nevill was blocking everything in sight.
Oscar Bellfield, however, went right to the basket and dropped in a layup in the face of the big Utah center.
The freshman point guard showed maturity with his late-game free throws in Provo, but the shot over Nevill in a key second-half situation showed even more.
He is going to be a special player at UNLV for years to come.
Later in the game, Nevill got stuck covering Bellfield outside on a switch.
Bellfield recognized the situation, took his time and broke Nevill down. It resulted in another layup for the freshman.
After making just 4 of 10 free throws in the first half, UNLV rebounded to go 10-for-11 from the line after halftime.
DARGER BACK TO 2007-08 ROLE
Joe Darger probably thought his days of playing center were over.
UNLV entered the season with a three-man rotation in the post. Beas Hamga left the program, and Darris Santee and Brice Massamba have been inconsistent.
Saturday was one of those days where both Santee and Massamba were struggling against dominant Utah big man Luke Nevill.
So Darger, more of a natural small forward, was called upon to defend Nevill for much of the second half.
He was able to hold his own and was a big reason UNLV was able to win.
“I still figured that I’d come back into the post a little bit here and there depending on certain lineups,” Darger said. “Noone likes to be scored on. I feel like I’m a little quicker than the bigger guys, so I can force them to do things they really don’t like to do.”
It might be time to start thinking about making the popular promotion a bit more difficult.
Before this season, it was quite rare for someone to hit the layup, free throw, 3-pointer and half-court shot to win the prize.
Saturday, it happened for the third time this season.