While scoring 30 points, Morlon Wiley had done little wrong all game, putting Cal State Long Beach on the verge of what would have been its greatest victory in years Monday night.
But with Nevada Las Vegas leading, 70-68, with 16 seconds to play, Wiley, who had made seven straight free throws, missed two and the undefeated and 13th-ranked Runnin' Rebels escaped the Long Beach Arena with a 71-68 victory.
The Rebels, who beat the 49ers for the 14th straight time, are 11-0 overall and 2-0 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. Long Beach is 7-4 and 1-1.
"It's the situation I always wanted to be in," Wiley said. "Some might say I choked. I don't know, I shot the same way I always do."
But Long Beach Coach Joe Harrington didn't blame Wiley.
"He's been very dependable for us this year," Harrington said. "He does so much for our team; he's just a very good player."
And Rebel Coach Jerry Tarkanian said: "It was about time he missed one, for crying out loud."
The hero for Las Vegas was Jarvis Basnight, who, unlike Wiley, had done a lot of things wrong most of the night. He had made five turnovers, including one in the frantic final three minutes.
And he had made only 3 of 6 from the foul line.
But with 31 seconds left and after waiting through three successive time outs--two of them called by the 49ers--Basnight made two free throws to break a 68-68 tie.
"I wanted to redeem myself," Basnight said.
The 49ers had several leads late in the game, but Las Vegas, behind the shooting of Gerald Paddio and Karl James, kept coming back.
A three-point play by Wiley put Long Beach ahead, 62-58.
Twice later, the 49ers had three-point leads, the last one at 66-63.
A roaring, stomping crowd of 4,286 watched Basnight throw the ball away with 2:59 left. But Rigo Moore matched that turnover, which set up a tying three-point shot by Paddio, who led the Rebels with 25 points.
After 49er guard Billy Walker traveled, Clint Rossum made only his second basket of the game for a 68-66 lead. But Wiley quickly hit a 12-footer and the score was tied again with 1:10 left.
After Basnight's two free throws and Wiley's crucial misses, Karl James added the final point with :06 left. The 49ers could not get off another shot.
"I think Vegas was fortunate to get out of here with a win," said Harrington, who was upset with the size of the crowd--it didn't half-fill the arena.
"We did the right things to win, but we made a few too many errors," Harrington said. "They certainly didn't outplay us."
Tarkanian said his team was lucky to win.
"They pressured us harder than any team has this year, and that gave us a lot of problems," said Tarkanian, whose team made 18 turnovers.
Paddio had 20 of his points in the first half. At the beginning of the game he outscored the 49er team, 11-8.
After a three-pointer by Wiley had tied the score, 17-17, Paddio hit two straight jumpers.
The game was then enlivened by a fight between reserve centers DeAnthony Langston of Long Beach and Anthony Todd of Las Vegas. Both were ejected.
From that point, Las Vegas kept protecting a lead that varied from two points to seven until Wiley's baseline shot with 5:05 left in the half gave him 15 points and the 49ers a tie, 30-30.
Paddio put the Rebels back in the lead, but center John Hatten, who had missed two layups, finally made one to tie it again.
A free throw by Andre Purry then gave the 49ers a lead that was fleeting.
Stacey Augmon's dunk started the Rebels on a 9-4 run that gave them a 41-37 halftime lead.
The second half did not start well for the 49ers when Purry committed his fourth foul with only 28 seconds gone.
But with Paddio having cooled considerably, Las Vegas found itself without an offense early in the second half and had only two field goals in the first six minutes.
The 49ers kept creeping closer until Hatten hit a jumper and then two free throws with 11:59 left made it 48-48.
Long Beach finally pulled ahead at 10:52 on two free throws by Moore. Basnight tied it, 50-50, and set the stage for the final 10 tense minutes.
Jeff Eastin had 10 rebounds for the 49ers, who won the rebounding battle, 40-33.
The 49ers played the last four minutes without Purry, who fouled out with 13 points.