UNLV runs away from UtahMar 9, 2007 - 7:44 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- Nevada-Las Vegas is looking to follow the blueprint of its last appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Kevin Kruger scored 21 points to lead the 25th-ranked Runnin' Rebels to an 80-54 romp over Utah in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals.
Playing on its home floor at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV (26-6) is seeking its first NCAA berth since 2000, when it won the inaugural MWC tournament here.
Jo'Van Adams and Wendell White added 15 points apiece for the second-seeded Rebels, who improved to 17-1 at home this season, including 11 straight victories over conference foes.
"I think these guys have worked hard regardless of where we've played," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "You feed off the crowd a little bit. I think anyone gets a little more energized at home. The crowd picks you up a little bit. You're a little bit fatigued, you get a deflection, get a loose ball, you convert that offensively and it kind of energizes you and picks you up."
Kevin Kruger, the coach's son and the reigning conference player of the week, finished 6-of-10 from the floor and hit four 3-pointers to help UNLV shoot 53 percent (31-of-58). He scored 16 first-half points and hit back-to-back shots from the arc in an 11-0 run to lead the Rebels to a 35-25 lead at the break.
"Tonight, the shots were falling a little more than usual," Kevin Kruger said. "We were getting good looks for each other, creating for each other. The shots were falling. The score kind of spread itself out."
Seventh-seeded Utah (11-19) played its final game under coach Ray Giacoletti despite getting 26 points and 10 rebounds from 7-1 center Luke Nevill. Giacoletti, in his third season, announced he would resign after the team's final game.
"It's not about me. The team's the most important thing," Giacoletti said. "There was no more added pressure one way or the other. We talked all week about it's new life, conference tournaments all over the country, anything's possible in three games in three days."
Nevill scored the first seven points of the second half for the Utes to cut a 10-point halftime deficit to 39-32, but the Rebels answered with a 13-2 run to take a 52-34 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining.
"We were playing defense, pretty good defense, the whole first half I thought," Nevill said. "We just couldn't knock some shots down in the stretch. They went on a run. You expect teams to go on a run. We just weren't able to match their run.
"We missed a couple of shots from the outside. We just kind of got in a deficit that we just couldn't catch up from."
UNLV will play sixth-seeded Colorado State, an upset winner over San Diego State, in Friday's semifinal round.
"Two good ballgames in the next ballgame. Both pose problems," Lon Kruger said. "We know we'll more than have our hands full and have to play extremely well to have a chance to win."
- MOUNTAIN WEST TR
NCAA BB MOUNTAIN WEST TR
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
UTAH 25 29 54
UNLV (25) 35 45 80 FINAL
Mar 8 10:51 PM
- MOUNTAIN WEST TR
NCAA BB UTAH 25
UNLV (25) 35 HALFTIME
Mar 8 9:47 PM
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