Friday , Mar , 23 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Rebels try to run past Ducks and into the “Elite Eight”

St. Louis. MO (Sports Network) – Responsible for sending home the highest
defeated seed in the 69th annual NCAA Tournament last weekend, the seventh-
seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are ready to take care of business against the
Oregon Ducks in the Midwest Regional semifinals at the Edward Jones Dome
in St. Louis.

The Rebels, who knocked off the BYU Cougars in the finals of the Mountain West
Conference Tournament title game, slipped by Georgia Tech in the first round
of the NCAA Tournament a week ago with a 67-63 victory. The win was the
seventh in a row for UNLV and set up a date against second-seeded Wisconsin on
Sunday, a meeting that fell in favor of the Rebels by a final of 74-68.
With the victory UNLV, which won the national title back in 1990, moved
to an impressive 32-13 in the event all-time, giving the team one of the best
winning percentages in the history of the tourney.

As for the Midwest Region’s third-seeded Ducks, winners of the very first
NCAA Tournament way back in 1939, they moved to 11-7 in the tournament with a
convincing 75-61 decision against an upstart Winthrop squad on Sunday in
Spokane. That win came on the heels of a narrow 58-56 triumph versus Miami-Ohio
two days earlier. Having won the Pac-10 Conference Tournament against USC by an
amazing 24-point margin, Oregon has now pushed its win streak to eight in a
row.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the
hardwood, this is the third meeting, with each squad having won one of the
previous encounters.

The winner of this battle will advance to the round of eight and face the
winner of the Butler/Florida contest on Sunday for the right to move on to the
Final Four in Atlanta.

UNLV’s win over Wisconsin, a team that was ranked sixth in the nation, was the
first for the team versus a top-10 program since defeating fifth-ranked Utah by
three points nine years ago. Much of the credit has to go to coach Lon Kruger’s
son, Kevin, who finished with 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting behind the three-
point line. In addition, Kruger also handed out seven of the unit’s 12 assists
and cleared six rebounds in the victory. Powered by a four-guard offense, the
Rebels were paced in the scoring department by Wendell White who tallied 22
points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 effort at the
charity stripe. The Rebels made half of their 20 attempts beyond the arc.

Although he’s listed as a guard, White spends as much time in the paint as
anyone else on the unit, leading the team with his 6.2 rpg and 14.6 ppg. Kruger
checks in with 13.4 ppg and is by far the most accomplished passer with 155
assists, against just 61 turnovers. Wink Adams (14.1 ppg) comes in a distant
second in terms of assists with his 82 and is shooting just 38.9 percent from
the field at the moment. Shooting just 36.4 percent from three-point range, the
Rebels have done well to give themselves plenty of chances from the perimeter
with a mere 11.2 turnovers per game, which ranks seventh in the nation at the
moment.

Back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002, the Ducks made their move
to the latest round by sending the Winthrop Eagles packing with a 14-point
decision last weekend. The Eagles actually hung tough through the first 20
minutes, trailing by just four points at the break (33-29), but then the UO
defense went to work and held Winthrop to a mere 34.3 percent shooting from the
field and 4-of-19 behind the three-point line. By comparison, the Ducks made
good on 11-of-23 attempts beyond the arc and were 48.2 percent accurate from
the floor in the win. Except for Bryce Taylor, who was limited to just eight
points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field, every starter scored in double
figures for the squad, beginning with Aaron Brooks who tallied 22 points on 5-
of-9 behind the three-point line. Tajuan Porter chipped in 14 points as he made
half of his eight chances out on the perimeter, while Malik Hairston and Maarty
Leunen tacked on 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Just like the Rebels, Oregon enjoys pumping out shots from behind the
three-point line and is currently ninth in the country in three-point
baskets per game with almost nine and a half per outing. Porter, who has
taken 230 of his 362 field goal attempts from beyond the arc, is making 43.5
percent of his chances, leading to 14.2 ppg. He trails only Brooks (17.8 ppg)
and Taylor (14.6 ppg) in the scoring department, with Brooks also pacing the
team with his 140 assists. Not to be overlooked is Leunen who is producing 10.9
ppg and a team-best 8.3 rpg.

UNLV OREGON