Sunday, April 1, 1990 | 4:36 p.m.
DENVER - The second-ranked UNLV Rebels overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to hold ninth-ranked Georgia Tech to just 28 second-half points en route to a 90-81 victory Saturday night before 17,675 in McNichols Arena.
The Rebels will play Duke for the National Championship at 6:12 p.m. (PDT) Monday.
Duke whipped Arkansas 97-83 in the opening semifinal game. The Blue Devils are trying to win their first Final Four in eight tries, while the Rebels will be going for their first in three.
They can thank themselves for that. A second-half pressure defense that sent the Yellow Jackets home with a 28-7 season mark was something coach Bobby Cremins had not seen this season. UNLV allowed just three baskets in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, and led 63-62 at that point.
Georgia Tech shot 67 percent in the first half against an amoeba zone. Leading scorer Dennis Scott knocked down 20 points in the opening half, but managed only nine the rest of the way. The Rebels held the Yellow Jackets to just 35 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes.
"That was one of the best defensive efforts we've had all season," UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian said of the Rebels' second half. "Our kids really got after them. They completely took Georgia Tech out of its game. We are very excited about getting a shot for the national championship. I can't say enough about our kids."
Neither could Cremins. After playing a near-flawless first half, the Yellow Jackets suddenly had hands waving in their faces and bodies flying in their paths. Scott was no longer a major factor thanks to Stacey Augmon. He denied the pure shooter his spots on the floor.
Freshman point guard Kenny Anderson didn't keep his team in its rhythm. He began to drive through the lane in an out-of-control fashion that cost the Yellow Jackets any shot at hanging on. He eventually picked up his fourth foul and had to watch the Yellow Jackets' dream fade away.
"I was very proud of how we played in the first half," Cremins said. "We proved we could play with Vegas. They just came out in the second and got us rattled in the opening five minutes. That was the turning point in the game."
"They just got in our jock and showed us what man defense is all about. That was Vegas defense at its best. I'm very proud of our team. They took us farther than we've ever been. We just got eat by a better team (Saturday)."
Augmon not only played great on the defensive end, but the offensive end as well. He led the Rebels with 22 points and nine rebounds. His intensity level lasted 37 minutes in the high altitude. Only Scott played more with 39.
When Larry Johnson went down with five fouls, with a little more than seven minutes left, Anderson Hunt hit two three-pointers that lifted the Rebels down the stretch. He finished with 20 points seven assists and only one turnover.
Johnson, despite constant foul trouble, still had 15 points and five rebounds. It was not a stellar performance against the bigger Georgia Tech front line. He made only 5 of 11 from the field.
Greg Anthony, who continues to struggle at the foul line, went to the showers with 14 points, while dishing off five assists. Butler had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Moses Scurry came off the bench with six points and a crucial 11 boards.
"We really weren't into the game in the first half," Tarkanian said. "We were like a boxer trying to feel out an opponent. I don't know what was wrong. But in the second, it was a different story. We really got after them."
Brian Oliver finished with 24 points, while Anderson scored 16 to round out Georgia Tech's offensive attack. The Yellow Jackets hit 51 percent for the game while the Rebels knocked down 52 percent.
UNLV jumped out to a 21-12 lead mainly on the strength of the inside play of Augmon. The Rebels were getting out on the break while the Yellow Jackets appeared to be a step slow. But when Tarkanian switched into his amoeba zone defense Georgia Tech's three-point eyes lit up.
They went on an 11-2 run to draw even at 23-23, then outscored the Rebels by seven (30-23) over the last 11:28 to take a 53-46 lead into the locker room. Scott was the main man in that long-range run. He hit three-pointers over the zone like he was two feet from the basket.
Anderson scored 13 in the first half, and was masterful running the break. Georgia Tech flat-out beat UNLV at its own game. The Yellow Jackets ran consistently then frustrated the Rebels' inside play of Butler and Johnson.
Johnson appeared to force some shots against the bigger front line of the Yellow Jackets. He had 13 points in the first half but wasn't as effective as he would have liked to be.
In the half-court game, Georgia Tech packed it inside daring Hunt to fire away. He seemed timid in the opening minutes. And the Rebels suffered accordingly.