Rebels Run By Seton Hall to Final Four : West Regional: UNLV starts second half with 14-0 surge in beating Pirates, 77-65.
Four Nevada Las Vegas starters were on the last Runnin’ Rebel team to lose an NCAA tournament game, the 1988-89 version that was beaten by Seton Hall. They were ripe for retribution Saturday in the finals of the West Regional.
At game’s end Saturday, the Pirates had to wonder what they had done to make UNLV’s Larry Johnson angry.
Johnson, still in junior college when the Rebels lost to Seton Hall in 1989, scored 30 points Saturday in leading UNLV to a 77-65 victory and a spot in the Final Four, where they will play the winner of today’s Duke-St. John’s game Saturday at Indianapolis.
Three-pointers by Johnson opened and closed a 14-0 Rebel surge that began the second half and turned a 39-36 UNLV halftime lead into a 53-36 runaway.
Coach Jerry Tarkanian worried about his players’ intensity before this game, but he needn’t have. The Rebels looked as good as they have all season as they ran their winning streak to 45 and boosted their season record to 34-0.
“We played great in the second half,” Tarkanian said. “We were as good as we could be. I couldn’t be prouder of the way we played.”
UNLV stole the ball nine times in the second half for a total of 14 in the game and stopped Seton Hall’s top scorers cold.
“The start of the second half is the way we played most of the season. We played like the old Rebels,” said UNLV’s Stacey Augmon. “That was the backbreaker. You could see it in their eyes. They were confused.”
“We couldn’t even in-bound the ball for a stretch of about five or six minutes,” said Seton Hall Coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Terry Dehere, Seton Hall’s biggest scoring threat, managed only three points in the second half for a total of 15.
The victory put UNLV within two games of becoming the first team since UCLA in 1973 to capture consecutive NCAA basketball championships and the first since Indiana in 1976 to win the title undefeated.
Seton Hall (25-9) took an early 8-2 lead with an 8-0 run, capped by freshman Arturas Karnishovas’ three-pointer from the top of the key.
But UNLV woke up quickly, breaking up Seton Hall’s offense with steals and sprinting to easy layups and dunks in a 14-4 run that put the Rebels ahead, 16-12. Johnson scored six of his 12 first-half points during that stretch, all from the inside.
Seton Hall, unable to whip the ball inside, took to the outside and tied the game, 24-24, on another three-pointer by Karnishovas.
Augmon answered with a three-pointer, and the Rebels made it 30-24 with the help of another steal. Each time UNLV threatened to break open the game, though, the Pirates found a way to hang in.
Trailing by its largest deficit of the first half, 37-30, Seton Hall scored six points in a row on free throws as UNLV’s floor leader, Greg Anthony, picked his second and third fouls and sat down with 2:38 left in the half. An offensive rebound and layup by reserve Evric Gray put UNLV ahead 39-36 at halftime.
Seton Hall shot only 35% from the field in the first half, but hit nine of 10 free throws. UNLV hit 49% from the field, but two of four free throws. Seton Hall outrebounded UNLV, 22-17, in the half.
After the 14-0 run in the second half, Seton Hall never again threatened. After a layup by Gordon Winchester stopped the streak, Anderson Hunt hit a three-pointer to make it 56-38.
Nothing the Pirates did worked. They tried to slow the ball, but had it stolen. They tried to steal the ball back, but were left flat-footed. The Pirates turned the ball over 18 times--twice as many as UNLV--and shot only 40% for the game. UNLV hit 49%.
Augmon and Hunt each had 13 points for UNLV. Anthony scored six points but had 11 assists and five steals.
Johnson, who also had six rebounds and three steals, dominated even more than he had in the previous three playoff games. The 6-foot-7, 250-pounder used his muscle to push away the younger, thinner Pirates, then went outside and shot with ease, hitting 13 of 19 field-goal attempts.
Johnson, named the most outstanding player in the West Regional, joined Augmon and Anthony on the all-regional team. Dehere and Arizona’s Brian Williams also were named to the team.