Sunday, March 29, 1987 | 12:41 p.m.
It’s finally over. UNLV’s joy ride screeched to a halt Saturday.
For once, the Rebels dug themselves a hole they were unable to climb out of, losing 97-93 to Indiana in an NCAA Tournament championship semifinal game.
The Hoosiers, 29-4, will play for the national title Monday against Syracuse, which took care of Providence, 77-63, in the first semifinal game Saturday. The Rebels’ season came to an end in front of 65,959 fans at the Superdome, the largest crowd ever to witness a college basketball game.
“We just didn’t have it,” UNLV senior forward Elridge Hudson said. “It just wasn’t there today. You would have figured we’d really come out for a big game like this.”
The Rebels’ defensive pressure wasn’t what it usually is. UNLV just forced 14 Indiana turnovers and the Hoosier shot 62-percent from the floor.
“We just didn’t have the defensive intensity today,” said UNLV point guard Mark Wade, who set a tournament record with 18 assists. “That’s why we lost the game.”
Indiana led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Rebels cut the margin to 53-47 by halftime.
“At halftime, I really felt like we had a good shot,” UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian said. “We had missed a lot of free throws (UNLV was 3-of-9 from the line in the first half) and we missed some easy shots inside. But we were only down by six. I thought we’d come out real aggressive in the second half.”
The Rebels made a run at Indiana early in the second half, outscoring the Hoosiers 9-2 to take a 56-55 lead. When Armen Gilliam hit a short jumped at the 14:25 mark, the Rebels led 63-61.
But the Hoosiers countered with a spurt of their own, racing to a 73-65 lead. Indiana eventually boosted the margin to 12, when Rick Calloway hit a tough shot to make it 82-70 with 5:35 to play.
“When we were down by two then went up by 12, that period in the game gave us the opportunity to withstand anything that they would do later in the game,” Indiana coach Bobby Knight said.
The Rebels made one last run.
A three-pointer by Freddie Banks, who scored 38 points, sliced the Hoosiers’ lead to seven with 2:17 to play. A hoop by Gilliam, who had 32, made it 90-85 with 1:51 to play.
Indiana point guard Keith Smart sneaked inside for a layup, but Banks hit another trey, cutting the lead to 92-88 with 1:11 remaining. After Steve Eyl and Dean Garrett each missed one-and-one opportunities for Indiana, Banks was fouled with 28 seconds to play.
A pair of free throws could have cut the lead to two, but Banks’ first shot bounced off the front of the rim.
Steve Alford, who scored 33 points for Indiana, hit two free throws and Eyl converted a three-point play to put the Rebels away.
“We had a couple of great chances at the end of the game,” Tarkanian said. “We missed some free throws that really hurt.”
The UNLV players said they were surprised by Knight’s decision to play an up-tempo game.
“That might be the most a Bobby Knight team has run since he has been the coach,” Gilliam said.
All part of the plan, according to Knight.
“We didn’t think that it would be the kind of game that we could play with all kind of patience and a lot of passing and a lot of dribbling, because we thought that their defensive pressure was too great,” Knight said.
The Rebels were 13 of 35 from three-point range, including a Final Four record 10 from Banks.