Thursday , Mar , 08 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

UNLV hosts Utah in Mountain West Tournament play

Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) – Winners of 83.1 percent of their home
games at the Thomas & Mack Center over the years, the UNLV Runnin’
Rebels get to enjoy the comforts of home as they tip off the
eighth annual Mountain West Conference Tournament against the Utah Runnin’
Utes tonight in Sin City.

Not only do the Rebels get to stay home for this portion of the postseason,
the squad does so as a member of the nationally-ranked, dropping into the
polls at 25 this week for the first time this season. UNLV, which has
won all but one of 17 home games in this building in 2006-07, has
captured four straight victories and six of seven to close out the
regular season, which means the team that won the inaugural MWC Tournament
in 2000 against BYU, has a great chance of picking up that elusive
second crown.

As for the seventh-seeded Utes, a team that defeated now second-seeded
UNLV in the title game back in 2004 and have a record of 9-6 in this event
overall, they were up and down the entire season, never able to carve
out a niche for themselves. The team had won two in row before closing
the regular season with a demoralizing 85-62 setback at BYU in the
Marriott Center last weekend.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the
hardwood, Utah clings to an 18-17 advantage over the Rebels, but UNLV
has managed to cut its deficit against the Utes significantly in the last two
years by claiming four straight meetings.

The winner of this game takes on the winner of the Colorado State/San
Diego State matchup in the semifinals on Friday night.

Shooting 63.2 percent from the field, Luke Nevill was the one who often put
the Utes in a position to win as he placed sixth in the conference in scoring
with 16.5 ppg and was second on the boards with another 7.6 rpg. He also
placed first on the team in blocked shots with 32. While Nevill was
working on the inside for Utah, the outside was being patrolled by Johnnie
Bryant who posted 15.3 ppg and recorded a team-best 80 assists. Bryant was
a huge force out on the perimeter as he made 43 percent of his three-point
tries, but he was still quite a ways behind Shaun Green (11.4 ppg) who
knocked down an incredible 52.1 percent of his three-point tries to rank
among the best in the nation, even though he failed to meet the minimum
requirement. In addition to his perimeter prowess, Green also ripped down 6.2
rpg per game and handed out 76 assists, all while recording a team-high 34
steals, which when taken altogether could have easily made him a star anywhere
else but Salt Lake City.

Operating with what was mostly a four-guard offense, the Rebels found
it essential to try and out-run opponents, just as they did in the early
1990’s when they rose to national prominence. Wendell White was one of three
players to average double-digit scoring for UNLV as he tallied 14.7 ppg,
shooting 51.4 percent from the field. In league play, he boosted his
accuracy to 54 percent and his points to 15.7 per game, even as the team as a
whole dipped in shooting percentage and scoring when taking on MWC
competition. Wink Adams added 14.1 ppg and Kevin Kruger 13.2 ppg and 126
assists, even as he missed several contests due to injury. Perhaps the
not-so-secret weapon for the Rebels in the postseason is Joel Anthony who
ended up with a team-high 94 blocked shots and was credited with 5.5 ppg and
4.0 rpg, even as he saw limited action. UNLV had the second-best field goal
shooting defense in the conference this season, allowing opponents to
convert only 42.7 percent, with part of that being due to a league-high 5.6
blocks per game.