Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 10:51 p.m.
Well, UNLV players and fans weren't the only ones to hear 'N-I-T' chants at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday.
New Mexico had to suffer through the same, as the tournament's No. 3 seed was upset by No. 6 Wyoming in the nightcap, 75-67.
After holding a healthy lead in the first half, New Mexico saw it slip away as the Mountain West's leading scorer -- senior guard Brandon Ewing -- teamed with senior gunner Sean Ogirri to chip away and secure a lead mid-way through the second half.
Ewing led all scorers with 20 points, while Ogirri added 17 and Tyson Johnson tallied 16. Tony Danridge, who scored 29 points in each of New Mexico's final two regular season games, scored 13.
New Mexico's loss -- and barring a Wyoming run of the table the rest of the week -- means the Mountain West is more than likely a 3-bid league for the NCAA Tournament, with San Diego State's case being helped even more now.
So tomorrow's rundown will include BYU and SDSU doing battle at 6 p.m., with the second semifinal pitting Wyoming against No. 2 Utah at 8:30 p.m. ... well, unless the first semi goes 6 overtimes like Syracuse and UConn did.
Until tomorrow, peace out, it's been real. We'll be firing up the blog around 2:30 p.m., when the Lady Rebels try to extend their unexpected run against No. 2 seed San Diego State.
Wait ... think about that ...
UNLV's women's team has a good shot at redemption on its plate for the rest of the athletic department. The football team's bowl hopes were dashed in the season finale at San Diego State, while the men's hoops team's shot at the field of 65 was also doused by the Aztecs.
See you then.
While sitting here watching Steve Alford stroll the New Mexico sidelines in the first half of a game that hasn't lived up to the billing so far, a question came to mind ....
Did UNLV's loss to San Diego State do enough to quiet some of the critics (none louder than Alford, of course) trying to get the league tournament out of Las Vegas's Thomas & Mack Center?
Well, SDSU's Lorrenzo Wade opined on the subject earlier today.
"I think it's a plus and a minus for our conference," he said. "It's a plus because people know UNLV can be beat on their home court in the tournament, but I think it's a minus because now that UNLV has been beat on their home court, there's a good possibility that the tournament might stay at the Thomas & Mack."
He's a pretty intelligent-sounding young man, and he makes good points.
Something tells me Alford might get asked about that after the game.
Lawrence Borha hit a 3-pointer with 0.08 seconds left as No. 2 seed Utah ousted No. 7 TCU at the Thomas & Mack Center to kick off the night session of the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Borha finished with 10 points, while Shaun Green led the Utes with 14. MWC Player of the Year Luke Nevill was held to 10 points -- all in the second half -- and only one field goal.
TCU's Zvonko Buljan turned it up late, scoring 20 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. However, for the second year in a row, TCU's MWC run ended on a last-second shot. Last year, it was UNLV's Wink Adams.
Utah will face the winner of the day's final contest -- Wyoming vs. New Mexico. Honestly, I'm looking forward to this one more than any game from earlier in the day. it should be pretty wild.
Be back shortly.
Here's a thought: Who would have thought coming into this weekend that the Lady Rebels would be playing into the field longer than the men's squad?
Not sure what the crowds will be like for the rest of the weekend now that the big local draw is knocked out. Right now, the lower bowl of the Thomas & Mack Center is about half-full (or half-empty?) for the Utah-TCU tilt.
Those who didn't put their tickets to use haven't missed much. A very bland first half, but that's probably what TCU wants. The Horned Frogs are in no position to complain, given that they lost to the Utes by 19 last weekend.
TCU loves to shoot threes, but so far is just 1-of-6. Luke Nevill, on the other hand, is following up his winning of the MWC Player of the Year award in not-so-flashy fashion. He's scoreless with just 2 rebounds to his credit, and only played 4 minutes in the first half after picking up 2 early fouls.
The buzz in the arena right now is for the nightcap between New Mexico and Wyoming, which just about everyone I talk to thinks will be absolutely wild. I can't disagree.
Well, René Rougeau, upon returning to a somber UNLV locker room, had no qualms about saying what everyone else was thinking regarding Thursday's first half.
"No heart, no pride," the senior wing said.
Rougeau is one of UNLV's biggest advocates of always playing with both of those traits, but when he sat for nearly 10 minutes after picking two early fouls, the Rebels didn't have much of a motor outside of Wink Adams.
Rougeau and senior Joe Darger both said they don't have much optimism regarding an NCAA Tournament bid coming their way on Sunday.
They probably won't find many people at the moment to argue with them.
Here are some final numbers of note ...
--As has been an issue for UNLV late in the season, the bench didn't provide much scoring punch, offering up only 4 points in a combined 4 minutes played by Kendall Wallace, Mo Rutledge and Brice Massamba. SDSU had 17 points off the bench, led by Tim Shelton's 10 in 21 minutes.
--SDSU was an even 28-of-56 from the floor and 8-of-15 from long range. UNLV was 18-of-46 and 4-of-17 from deep.
--Oddly enough, UNLV outrebounded SDSU, 32-29.
--Officially, SDSU had 19 assists to 7 turnovers. UNLV had 5 assists to 11 turnovers.
--San Diego State scored 36 points in the paint. UNLV had 14. Also, SDSU outdid UNLV on second-chance points, 14-4.
Time to sort this one out some more as Utah and TCU get warmed up for the night session opener. Talk to you again shortly.
Boy, it's tough to imagine a positive vibe flowing at the postseason banquet on Sunday afternoon for the UNLV men's basketball team.
It's there where the Rebels will watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, and following Friday's 71-57 quarterfinal loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West tourney, don't expect an invite to the field of 65 to show up on the front door.
More than likely, expect the Aztec fans' 'N-I-T' chant in the closing moments to be pretty accurate.
The Rebels are 21-10 overall and went 9-7 in the league, dropping 6 of their last 10 games.
On the other hand, San Diego State probably punched its dance ticket, now at 22-8 overall and an 11-5 conference mark. The Aztecs will take on BYU tomorrow in the semis.
Lorrenzo Wade led the Aztecs with 20 points, while Wink Adams led all scorers with 26.
UNLV was just 18-of-46 from the floor and only had 5 assists to 11 turnovers.
Be back following the postgame press sessions with much more.
San Diego State still holds a healthy 11-point edge on UNLV with 3:39 to play in the Thomas & Mack Center, and the Rebels' lack of a true post presence on the defensive end is what's kept them from pulling any closer than to within 9 points.
Billy White and Tim Shelton have both just scored tough buckets inside against defensive mismatches, and such is life for the Rebels, who have less than 4 minutes to salvage their NCAA Tournament hopes.
A 12-point deficit could become 11 out of the current media timeout, as Tre'Von Willis will head to the free throw line to try and cap off an old-fashioned 3-point play which was the result of pure hustle before the break.
In terms of outside shooting, SDSU picked up right where it left off at halftime, as Lorrenzo Wade has stayed hot and leads the Aztecs currently with 18. They got up by as many as 17 points, but now lead 59-48 (he made the free throw as I was typing).
Wink Adams needed help in the worst way in the first half, and now he's got a little to work with. He leads all scorers with 24 points, but Oscar Bellfield hit two huge buckets to begin the Rebels' surge back into the game.
'N-I-T' chants haven't come yet from the San Diego State crazies behind us, but they can't be too far off, as the Rebels -- excluding Wink Adams -- were dominated in pretty much every way possible in a one-sided first half.
SDSU leads 42-27 at the break.
Adams deserves one helluva pat on the bum. He has 17 of UNLV's 27 points, and has been completely unconscious and ruthless on the offensive end. Heck, he's defended very well, too, hounding Richie Williams.
Unfortunately, no one else really has found any space. Outside of Wink, UNLV only has two field goals through 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs are answering every single push. One came after a Joe Darger 3-pointer pulled UNLV to within 10 at 29-19.
Tim Shelton hit an and-one layup on the other end, following up a Williams miss. Then, after Wink Adams hit a three, Lorrenzo Wade did the same. Adams then hit yet another jumper. Wade just cashed another one right back. The Rebels haven't looked the same since.
Here are some first half numbers ...
-- UNLV is 8-of-21 from the floor. Outside of Wink Adams' output, they're 2-of-9.
-- San Diego State had 13 assists on 17 field goals. UNLV? 2 on 8 field goals.
-- The Rebels have turned it over 8 times, while SDSU only has 2 giveaways.
-- 8 first-half minutes for Brice Massamba. He hasn't played that many in 7 games. He has 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 fouls.
If that's not one-sided enough for you, well, not sure what I can do to convince you otherwise.
Well, apparently no one has much interest in helping Wink Adams out on the offensive end today. At least not so far.
UNLV is getting run by San Diego State at the moment, trailing 26-13 with 7:49 to play in the first half.
Of UNLV's four field goals so far, Adams is responsible for three of them. The Aztecs are back-cutting, getting easy shots inside, knocking down threes and now again out-hustling the Rebels on the boards.
René Rougeau, who picked up two fouls in less than four minutes, is now back for the Rebels, and UNLV needs him to provide a spark more than ever.
UNLV is just 4-of-15 from the floor, while SDSU is 11-of-22. The Rebels' offense isn't taking much shape. Tre'Von Willis his gone on the floor in questionable fashion towards the rim a couple of times, and hasn't netted much in the way of results other than a couple of charities.
SDSU's student body can even claim a win already, as their representative ousted a UNLV student in the jump rope contest during the last media timeout. Yeah, you read that right. Jump rope.
The Rebels and the Aztecs just got underway at the Thomas & Mack Center, but here's an interesting pregame note for you all.
Obviously, the winner of this 4 vs. 5 tilt takes on BYU tomorrow evening. Cougars star guard Lee Cummard just confirmed that should the Rebels face BYU in the semifinals, his wife, Sarah, will not be in the stands to watch.
The back story's been told a zillion times, even once already in this blog, so it needs no explanation. But it's interesting that she will not be here, still. He said she'll probably opt for a massage, even if it costs him a bit of coin.
As for UNLV-SDSU, the Rebels are a bit friskier in the early going today than they were in San Diego last weekend as far as hustle points. But they're missing shots, missing free throws and René Rougeau picked up two fouls in the first 3:39.
Again ... ruh roh. SDSU is ahead 8-3.
Well, a tip of my wool Kangol to Air Force. Can't say you weren't impressed, either.
Anwar Johnson scored 24 points for the Falcons, but BYU just had too much Provo power. Jimmer Fredette scored 21, Gorman's own Jonathan Tavernari had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Lee Cummard finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
I'll be back with some postgame stuff momentarily.
Oh yeah, hte final score was 80-69. Minor detail there.
Also, another pat on the back for Air Force, as Tim Reynolds' squad went 2-0 against the spread this weekend and 3-0 ATS for the year at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Matt Holland hit a 3-pointer just before the first half buzzer to put Air Force ahead of top-seeded BYU, 36-33, but still, the buzz around the Thomas & Mack Center was that, you know, surely, this couldn't possibly last.
BYU backed that notion up with a monster run out of the half, paced by 3-balls from Jimmer Fredette, who right now leads the Cougs with 19 points.
But Air Force continues to just linger, and with 11:49 to play, leads BYU by one at 54-53.
Anwar Johnson just hit two free throws out of the media timeout to put the Falcons back ahead, and he has 20 points after his strong performance yesterday against CSU.
It's funny, because as the San Diego State and UNLV fans filter into the Mack, they're now joining the 1,000 or so Air Force fans on hand and pulling against BYU -- a seemingly favorite past time of everyone in this league outside of Provo.
I went up to talk to the Air Force students at halftime, and it turns out 50 of them made the trip from Colorado Springs. Oddly, that's more than were in the stands against UNLV when I was at Clune Arena on Jan. 31.
This is simply another chip in the stack backing Vegas as the continued host site for this annual get-together. Would those kids really make the trip to Albuquerque or Salt Lake City?
Ross Gioiosa, an Air Force junior who I spoke with, said he might, as would several others. But I know what it's like to be a college kid. You lie through your teeth sometimes.
Air Force's Spring Break isn't for two more weeks, but Vegas had the pull with these students.
"Vegas appeals to kids our age," Gioiosa said.
He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face, either, with the score being what it was.
"They're playing out of their league right now," he added.
So the UNLV students aren't the only ones busting out the 'psycho Sarah' chant this season. Of all student bodies, Air Force -- yes, Air Force -- is belting the tune now.
Of course, quick back story, and I should note that I was not here last year, and everything I've heard is second-hand wind. But, as legend goes, the wife of BYU star guard Lee Cummard -- Sarah, if you can't put two-and-two together -- got into a slight donnybrook with UNLV fans towards the end of the league tourney title game.
I just asked my pal Jason Franchuk from the Provo Daily Herald if she's here, and he said she's supposed to be, but he hadn't spotted her yet.
Cummard, however, is doing a good job of ignoring that mess for the second time this season in the Mack. The 6-foot-6 wiry wing helped spark a 13-2 BYU run, which erased a 19-12 deficit.
Right now, with 5:39 to go in the first half, the Cougars lead 26-22.
His finest showing in that stretch came with 9:14 to play, when he skied for a seemingly impossibly offensive board against Air Force's Grant Parker. It followed a Jonathan Tavernari 3-point miss. The Gorman product got the ball back from Cummard immediately and stroked a trey to put the Cougars ahead, 21-19.
Of course, every time I start writing about BYU taking control, AIr Force makes a push. It's now 28-27, Cougs, with 4:18 to go before break.
Forget what I said about firm control held by the Cougars, who are 1-of-4 from the free throw line to start.
Air Force just ripped off an 11-1 run, capped by a Trevor Noonan 3-pointer.
Ruh roh. There's a reason I'm not a professional hoops analyst.
Just got to the Thomas & Mack Center for what will be the start of a long weekend of hoops, but you won't find this guy complaining.
However, I know I might hear a bit from Rob Miech upon his arrival, since the Las Vegas Sun's floor seats are right in front of the band, meaning that'll be the case for four games today.
For game one, we're in front of the BYU band, but I'd much rather it be Air Force, which in January cemented itself as my favorite pep band in all the land.
First off, a bad-ass fight song never hurts. But the uniforms tie it all together. The navy blue pants, the powder blue shirts and the über-hygienic white gloves for the brass section. In fact, I'm making it my goal at halftime to ask just why the white gloves are part of the standard get-up for the cadets.
However, don't expect to see them still hanging around the Mack tomorrow in the semifinals. Air Force got it's feel-good moment of the year yesterday, ousting Colorado State, 71-64, for its first win since league play began this year.
Early on, BYU holds a 7-4 edge, which isn't brutally impressive, but the Cougars are in pretty firm control. Apparently, that 54-49 scare up in Provo last Saturday was a bit too much for the old heart rate.
A decent crowd on hand for game one. I'd estimate about 3,000 Cougar fans, and maybe 1,000 for the Falcons, who have a pretty mighty student section out here.
Think about it. Great Spring Break destination for kids. Are you listening *cough* super-secret sub-committee? *cough cough*.