Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2019

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UNLV gets Kent State in Omaha in NCAA hoops tourney (UPDATED)

It was almost anticlimactic Sunday afternoon when UNLV learned it will start the NCAA tournament Thursday, at about noon, against Kent State in Omaha, Neb.

The Rebels were still euphoric over winning the Mountain West Conference tournament title game – and the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth – over BYU on Saturday

“We just want to play another one,” said senior guard Curtis Terry at the team’s banquet inside the Cox Pavilion. "Doesn't matter who it's against."

Eighth-seeded UNLV (26-7) plays ninth-seeded Kent State (28-6), with the victor likely to get Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Regional. The Rebels' game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the Jayhawks tip off against Portland State at 9:25 a.m.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger said he and his staff will analyze video of three or four Golden Flashes’ games on Sunday night and devise a game plan that they’ll install Monday.

“We’re not going all the way across the country, so that’s good,” Kruger said. “But Kent State is very well coached. It will be a tough game.”

Reserve center Matt Shaw said the Rebels are prepared for any situation.

“It’s just the type of team we are,” he said. “We’re ready for whomever. I was just anxious to see where we’ll go. Now that I know, I feel good.”

--- If you're looking for some history between UNLV and Kent State -- or is it Kent? No, they switched it back to Kent State this season -- don't bother. The two programs have never played each other.

And the most famous player sixth-year Golden Flashes boss Jim Christian has tutored doesn't even play hoops now. Standout forward Antonio Gates now works for the San Diego Chargers as one of the finest tight ends in the National Football League.

Kent State is also notable for having won at least 20 games in 10 consecutive seasons. The only other programs that can make that boast, heading into the postseason, are Creighton, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga and Kansas.

--- Triple bypass? Huh? Andy Katz of ESPN, in analyzing the UNLV-Kent State matchup, said Sunday night that Lon Kruger has done a great job this season after losing a huge chunk of the Sweet 16 team from last season, that he should be considered for national coach-of-the-year honors but that he ultimately won't get that award.

To top it off, Katz said, Kruger is coming off triple-bypass surgery. Uh, that would be septuple-bypass surgery, hoops guru. Makes you wonder what other "minor" stuff the so-called experts get wrong.

--- At the banquet, UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick wanted it to be known that the Mountain West Conference -- not UNLV -- was in charge of security, and erected the tall, black partitions that ringed the lower level, during the tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. Security personnel initially resisted allowing throngs of Rebels fans onto the court to celebrate their team's title Saturday night, then it relented because the numbers were so overwhelming.

After allowing them to revel for 10 minutes or so, the fans cleared the court for a post-game awards ceremony.

Security was tightened, Hamrick said, because BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe requested it after UNLV defeated BYU in the conference tournament finale last year. When fans rushed the court then, Hamrick said Holmoe turned to him and said, that's not very sportsmanlike, Mike.

Hamrick said BYU fans stormed Sam Boyd Stadium, after the Cougars won the Las Vegas Bowl in December, and caused some damage. Happens all over the country, Hamrick said.

Part of whatever went on in the stands Saturday involved Sarah Cummard, wife of BYU player Lee Cummard. Hamrick said he heard she had swung a shoe at someone and poured a drink on three UNLV fans. Witnesses said she threw punches and had some heated exchanges with UNLV fans. A BYU fan was reportedly left bloodied after a confrontation. Lee Cummard said shame on fans from both schools who were involved in such mayhem.

--- Among the team awards handed out by Kruger on Sunday, Wink Adams won MVP honors and the Rebels voted Rene Rougeau as the squad's most inspirational player. Terry and fellow senior Corey Bailey presented Kruger with a plaque, in appreciation from the entire team. Academic honors were awarded to Mareceo Rutledge and Beas Hamga. That was ironic, since the NCAA questioned Hamga's academics when he entered UNLV and ultimately forced him to redshirt this season.

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