OMAHA, Neb. — Ill with the flu for most of the week, UNLV junior guard Wink Adams was able to summon more strength than he needed Thursday.
It was Kent State that was sickened by its weak performance.
Adams outscored the Golden Flashes by himself in the first half, and the Rebels were dominant on defense in a 71-58 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the Qwest Center.
"Maybe I just need to stay sick," said Adams, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. "I’ve been playing through it. My voice is not back yet, but I’m feeling good."
Junior forward Joe Darger scored a game-high 18 points as eighth-seeded UNLV (27-7) advanced to play No. 1 seed Kansas (32-3) in the second round Saturday at approximately 3:50 p.m.
The Jayhawks pounded Portland State 85-61 in Thursday’s early game and were quickly installed as 121/2-point favorites over UNLV.
It did not take long for the Rebels to realize they would be moving on to face Kansas. UNLV rolled to a 31-10 halftime lead to rock ninth-seeded Kent State (28-7). Adams had 11 points at halftime, and the game was history — literally.
The Golden Flashes, champions of the Mid-American Conference, tied an NCAA Tournament record for futility. Their 10 points matched Wake Forest in 2001 for the lowest-scoring half in the modern history of the tournament.
"Everybody was just playing great defense," Adams said.
Kent State coach Jim Christian briefly credited UNLV but placed most of the blame on his players, who shot 5-for-24 from the field and had 17 turnovers in the first half.
"We just played with no confidence and made silly mistake after silly mistake," Christian said. "That was about as bad as we can play."
The Rebels were no picture of offensive grace in the first half, shooting 13-for-33 (39.4 percent) with nine turnovers. And they finished with 19 turnovers. But none of that mattered.
A layup by Chris Singletary stopped an eight-minute scoring drought for the Golden Flashes with 3:53 to go in the half, drawing a mocking cheer from the crowd of 17,162.
"I don’t think they liked the pressure we applied. It was tough, hard-nosed, gritty defense," UNLV senior point guard Curtis Terry said. "They might not have thought it was going to be that extreme, but that’s how we play."
Adams scored six straight points to put the Rebels ahead 22-6. Darger followed with a 3-pointer and Rene Rougeau dunked on a fast break to extend the lead to 27-6 with four minutes left.
Rougeau finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals for UNLV.
Darger shot 7-for-11, including 4-for-8 on 3-pointers. Darger made two 3s early in the second half, and the latter gave the Rebels their largest lead at 45-20.
With six minutes remaining, Darger made his fourth 3 — off the glass from the top of the key.
"On the bank shot, I felt it slipping out of my hand, so I shot it a little harder, and it went in for me," he said, smiling. "I was happy."
Terry was erratic and had six points, eight assists and six turnovers in 39 minutes.
UNLV’s reserves combined for 16 points, as sophomore forward Matt Shaw scored nine and freshman guard Kendall Wallace had five.
"I felt really good about the way our guys opened the game," Rebels coach Lon Kruger said. "It was important to widen the lead as much as we possibly can during that time. We were really sharp defensively."
Al Fisher, Kent State’s top player, was held to 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting. Fisher had two points at halftime.
Mike Scott led the Golden Flashes with 14 points, all in the second half. Singletary and Haminn Quaintance each scored 12.
"We knew there was no possible way that we could have played worse," Quaintance said of the first half. "Unfortunately we never did make it a game."
UNLV’s players quickly turned their attention to playing Kansas on Saturday.
"We’re kind of used to being the underdog," Adams said. "We’ll come to play, and hopefully we can come out with another win."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2907.ON THE WEB UNLV-Kent State slideshow UNLV — 71 KENT STATE — 58 KEY: Wink Adams outscored Kent State 11-10 in the first half, when the Golden Flashes shot 5-for-24 and committed 17 turnovers. NEXT: UNLV vs. Kansas, approximately 3:50 p.m. Saturday, NCAA Tournament second round