As he has done so many times, UNLV senior Wink Adams hit a hot shooting streak just in time to burn Brigham Young.
He also shot some life back into a season that seemed on the verge of slipping away.
Adams scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the Rebels to a 75-74 victory over the Cougars at a packed Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night.
“My teammates depend on me, and I’m glad I could hit shots when my team needed it,” Adams said. “Every game from this point is definitely a must-win game.
“When we play BYU, it’s always a dogfight. It was two tough teams playing hard, and it was a great game.”
The crowd of 18,523 marked UNLV’s first sellout since Jan. 23, 1993, in a game against Georgetown.
The Rebels (20-7, 8-5 Mountain West Conference) revived their NCAA Tournament hopes, completed a regular-season sweep of the Cougars and extended their home winning streak in the series to six.
“(Winning) feels good because of the respect we have for the quality of their team,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger.
UNLV, which has won 30 of its past 31 home games against MWC teams, led by 11 points with two minutes to go before Lee Cummard and Jonathan Tavernari tried to rally BYU.
The Cougars (20-6, 8-4) cut their deficit to 68-62 with a minute remaining, but Rene Rougeau blocked Cummard’s layup attempt. Adams then made 5 of 8 free throws.
Tavernari banked in a 3 to bring BYU within 74-71 with seven seconds left. Rebels freshman Oscar Bellfield hit the second of two free throws, Cummard made a 3-pointer with three seconds left, and Adams took the inbounds pass and made a dribbling escape from the defense as time expired.
Rougeau had 12 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots for UNLV, which got key contributions from reserves Mareceo Rutledge with 13 points and Kendall Wallace with eight.
Cummard scored 20 points and Tavernari 19, and each made a 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds to make the ending dramatic.
The teams combined for 105 points in the second half. Tre’Von Willis’ jumper put UNLV up 33-28 just over three minutes into the half. Cummard’s breakaway dunk got BYU even at 37 with 12:40 remaining.
But Wallace stepped up and staged a one-man rally by scoring the Rebels’ next eight points. The sophomore reserve hit back-to-back 3s and drove for a layup to put UNLV on top 45-39 with 11:20 to go.
“Kendall coming off the bench and knocking down those shots really got the crowd into it and everyone was fired up,” said Adams, who shot 5-for-11 from the field and hit 9 of 14 free throws.
Rutledge took over from there, burying a 3-pointer and driving into the lane for a three-point play to stretch the lead to 54-45 with eight minutes to play.
The Rebels took their largest lead, 60-48, on Adams’ 3-pointer with 5:40 to go.
Tavernari, a Bishop Gorman High graduate, followed with a 3-pointer for BYU. But Adams was ready with an answer, and he knocked down a 25-foot jumper that lit up the crowd.
On Jan. 21 at Provo, Utah, Adams was a game-changing performer when UNLV staged a second-half comeback to beat BYU, 76-70. He scored a game-high 22 points as the Rebels wiped out a 43-30 halftime deficit and stopped the Cougars’ 25-game home winning streak in the conference.
In the first half, Rougeau’s layup with two seconds left gave the Rebels a 23-21 lead. Joe Darger’s 3-pointer with one minute to go helped UNLV close the half with a 7-0 run. The play of both teams was every bit as ugly as the halftime score indicated.
The Cougars missed their first seven shots, but by taking advantage of the Rebels’ miscues and poor shooting, BYU finally got rolling and went ahead 15-14 on Tavernari’s 3-pointer at the 8:18 mark.
As has been the case too often, UNLV opened slowly and shot 5-for-21 in the half. Adams’ shot was off early, and he finally scored on a layup five minutes before halftime.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.Audio Slideshow
BRIGHAM YOUNG 74
KEY: The Rebels’ Wink Adams scored 18 of his 22 points during the second half, and he also had seven rebounds and five assists.
NEXT: UNLV at Utah, 7 p.m. Wednesday, The Mtn. (334), KWWN-AM (1100)