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Kruger puts Rebels in non-UNLV gear for practice; players get point

Digging into his bag of motivational tricks, UNLV coach Lon Kruger pulled out a new one Thursday by banning the Rebels from wearing their official shorts and jerseys to practice.

“It’s a reminder to all of us that we have to represent better,” Kruger said. “It’s an easy way to draw our attention to the fact that we’ve got a four-game season left and we have to play better. There’s no question about that.”

UNLV (19-7, 7-5 Mountain West Conference) faces third-place Colorado State (18-7, 8-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo. Both teams are fringe NCAA Tournament qualifiers at this point.

Kruger said this was the first time in his seven seasons he has taken away the practice gear from his players. He decided to do it after the Rebels struggled in a 49-42 victory over Air Force on Tuesday. The team was off Wednesday.

“After the Air Force game, no one felt good,” Kruger said.

The practice resembled a summer pickup game, but with more intensity. No players wore anything with “UNLV” on it, and senior guard Tre’Von Willis was in his purple shorts from Washington Union High School in Fresno, Calif.

“We’ve got to kind of start from scratch. We feel like this is a fresh start,” Willis said. “It stirs things up a little bit and gives us a different look. The coaches are demanding more from us, and the players are demanding more from each other.

“From the players’ perspective, we’re going to have a new look as well. We’re going to look to run more and attack more. We have to be hungry and just want it. I think that was the message Coach Kruger was trying to send.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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