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Rebels’ Adams tries to shake off inconsistencies

LARAMIE, Wyo. — A shooting slump, an injury and streaks of inconsistency have shadowed UNLV’s Wink Adams through his senior season.

What’s next? A strong stretch run, he hopes.

“We’ve got to make the most of these games,” he said. “I can’t take a night off.”

The Rebels (19-6, 7-4 Mountain West Conference) are down to their final five regular-season games as they meet Wyoming (14-10, 3-7) at 7 p.m. today at the Arena-Auditorium.

UNLV’s postseason fate is up for debate, and coach Lon Kruger is reminding his players of that almost daily.

“Every game requires a great deal of urgency, like it’s the last one,” Kruger said. “We’ve got five left in conference play, and each of the five we have to approach like it’s the last one that’s going to determine if we play again.”

Adams was the catalyst for the Rebels’ postseason run last March, when he averaged 22.8 points over the last five games and led the way to the Mountain West tournament championship and a first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Kent State.

If he’s going to do it again, he needs to recapture the accuracy of his jumper.

Adams is shooting 37.4 percent from the field, 25.7 percent on 3-pointers and 69.5 percent on free throws — numbers that are all career lows and dramatically down from his junior season.

“If I’m not doing it on offense, I’ve got to do it on the defensive end. I’ve got to do it on both ends if I can,” he said.

“I’m not shooting the 3-ball as much. I’m getting to the basket more and making plays, and that’s my strength. I’ve definitely got to shoot a better free-throw percentage.”

Adams still leads UNLV in scoring at 14.2 points per game, but that also is down from his 16.9 average last season.

After an early-season shooting slump, Adams busted loose by scoring 25 points in a blowout victory over Arizona on Dec. 20. Three days later, he suffered an abdominal injury that set him back.

Adams went scoreless in two games, missed a game for the first time in his career and needed time to rebound.

“Wink has had an interesting senior season with everything that’s been involved, and yet he very much wants to finish strong and see good things happen for his team,” Kruger said.

There have been signs that Adams, the preseason co-player of the year in the conference, is heating up. In the past eight games — beginning with an 83-66 win over Wyoming on Jan. 17 — he has averaged 16.8 points.

However, he’s coming off his worst game in that stretch. He was held to 10 points against Colorado State on Saturday and shot 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and 1-for-5 on free throws.

“So many times it’s like he’s been ready to break out,” Kruger said. “He’ll have a game or two where you think, ‘Here it comes,’ and then he’ll fall back.

“But he’s going to compete like crazy. He’ll keep working, there’s no question about that. You want it to happen for him.”

Adams must bring his best against the Cowboys, who are 10-1 at home and feature high-scoring guards Brandon Ewing and Sean Ogirri.

Kruger’s switch to a four-guard lineup last week has turned the Rebels into a more aggressive defensive team by using some full-court pressure and trapping.

“That’s one of those things that’s harder to do on the road than it is at home, especially with Ewing and Ogirri and guards who can handle it pretty well,” Kruger said. “We’ll try to pick and choose our spots. But we’ll still see if we can get some things stirred up in Laramie.”

UNLV could benefit if Adams assumes the catalyst role.

“This Wyoming game is very big,” Adams said. “We’ve put pressure on ourselves. We’re not accustomed to losing. We’re never satisfied.”

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

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