While Freddie Banks rolled 3s for Nevada Las Vegas, Indiana and Steve Alford took the surer shots and gave Coach Bob Knight a shot at his third NCAA basketball championship.
For Knight, who won titles in 1976 and 1981, the 97-93 victory was more than just beating another basketball team. It was beating a rule he dislikes intensely--the three-point shot installed this season.
Thirteen of the 35 field goals for top-ranked Las Vegas were three-pointers, with Banks alone accounting for 10.
"It was a classic example of how much shooting has come into the game," Knight said. "I believe basketball should involve passing and a lot of other things rather than just throwing it up. I have an aversion to basketball of that kind."
Knight said that the No. 3 Hoosiers put pressure on Banks, but "he just shot it very well."
Alford scored 33 points--and only two three-pointers--as Indiana snapped UNLV's winning streak at 22 games and make it to Monday night's title game against Syracuse. The Orangemen defeated Providence, 77-63, in the first game of the Final Four semifinals before a record crowd of 64,949 at the Superdome.
Only two coaches have won more than three titles--UCLA's John Wooden, with 10, and Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, with 4.
The Hoosiers (29-4) weren't assured of victory until the very end. Banks hit 6 of his 10 three-pointers in the second half to help the Rebels come back from a 53-47 halftime deficit. Banks, a 6-foot 2 1/2-inch senior guard, made 12 of 23 shots from the field and finished with 38 points.
"We worked all week to stop the three-point play and we didn't do a very good job of it," Indiana reserve Joe Hillman said.
The Hoosiers also had to contend with 6-9 forward Armon Gilliam, who added 32 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana's biggest lead was at 41-27 after Alford's three-point goal with 6:10 remaining in the first half.
"The first half we just didn't play as hard defensively as I thought we could," UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "We just didn't sustain it today. We weren't as quick as we usually are.
"It's a tough loss and it hurts a lot, but I'm very proud of this team."
Gilliam hit two shots, Banks a three-pointer and Jarvis Basnight added a layup as UNLV took a 56-55 lead early in the second half. The score was tied twice before Gilliam again put UNLV on top, 63-61.
The Hoosiers then took command, despite having starting point guard Keith Smart on the bench with foul trouble. Alford and Hillman took turns handling the ball as the Hoosiers outscored the Rebels, 17-5, for a 78-68 lead with 7:05 to go in the game.
Alford, a 6-2 All-American senior guard, scored 10 points during the run, but no lead was safe with Banks tossing up long-range bombs.
A two-point goal and a three-point shot by Banks made it 82-75 with 4:56 to go. Each time, the Hoosiers were on the verge of pulling away, the Rebels came back. A three-pointer by Banks and a field goal by Gilliam cut Indiana's lead to 90-85 with 1:51 remaining. After Smart's basket for Indiana, Banks hit another three-pointer to make it 92-88.
Indiana then missed two 1-and-1 opportunities but, with 28 seconds left, Banks also missed a 1-and-1. Alford then hit two free throws and reserve Steve Eyl made a three-point play and Indiana was ahead, 97-88.
Mark Wade's three-pointer and Gilliam's tip-in only reduced the margin.
Indiana also got 18 points and 11 rebounds from 6-10 center Dean Garrett. Smart had 14 points, 12 in the first half, and Rick Calloway added 12 points.
The loss dropped UNLV to 37-2 and denied the championship trophy to Tarkanian, whose program has been at odds with the NCAA over alleged recruiting violations through the years.
Wade set an NCAA tournament record with 18 assists.
Alford hit on 10 of 19 field goals and 11 of 13 from the free-throw line. Indiana made 62% of its field-goal attempts, while UNLV made 48%.
Indiana, co-champions of the Big Ten with Purdue, reached the Final Four for the first time since winning the title in 1981. The Hoosiers also won in 1976, when they were undefeated.
Knight's team, riding a six-game winning streak, beat Fairfield, Auburn, Duke and Louisiana State to win the Midwest Regional as the No. 1 seed.
UNLV lived up to its top seed in the West by ousting Idaho State, Kansas State, Wyoming and Iowa. This was UNLV's first Final Four appearance since 1977, when the Rebels lost to North Carolina in the semifinals.