UNLV's Tyrone Nesby.
March 5, 1998
LAS VEGAS (AP) - For one night, UNLV found a way to beat No. 5 Utah. Pack in a zone and let the Utes misfire from outside.
Utah did exactly that Thursday night, making only four of 20 3-pointers as UNLV beat the Utes 54-51 in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
It was the first win in three tries for UNLV over Utah this season, and came before a screaming home crowd that stormed the court after the biggest win in several years for the Runnin' Rebels.
"Obviously the zone defense was the key, especially in the second half," UNLV coach Bill Bayno said. "I really thought we weren't going to be able to defend them with the zone coming in."
Tyrone Nesby hit a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to give UNLV the lead, then sealed the win with a pair of free throws as the Runnin' Rebels knocked tournament favorite Utah out in its first tournament game.
UNLV outrebounded the taller Utes 47-35 and held Utah to 28 percent shooting in the second half.
"We all dropped our heads when we didn't make shots we're used to making," Utah coach Rick Majerus said. "I think the fact we didn't feel as confident as we usually do made a big difference."
Nesby, who had a game-high 22 points, rebounded a miss by Andre Miller and then calmly sank two free throws after being fouled with 6.4 seconds left.
Miller's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim, as UNLV fans celebrated on the court.
The victory put UNLV (18-12) into the conference semifinals Friday against Fresno State, which beat San Diego State earlier. It was the fourth straight win for UNLV, which has jelled since losing center Keon Clark for the season.
"It's been a tough year, but tonight we played like the team we should have played like all season," Nesby said.
Utah had beaten UNLV twice in the regular season, including a January win on the same court.
Utah (25-3) led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but was unable to capitalize on a height advantage against a zone defense packed in low by UNLV. The zone frustrated Utah, which shot only 28 percent in the second half and 33 percent for the game.
"I think the fault is primarily mine," Majerus said. "I should have worked my team longer and harder, especially on the zone this week. But I went easy on them."
The Utes still led 51-48 on two free throws by Michael Doleac with 3:51 remaining, but could not score again as UNLV scored the final six points of the game.
Doleac led Utah with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Miller had 11 points. Mark Dickel had 10 points for UNLV, while Kevin Simmons had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Utah led 28-25 at halftime, but UNLV opened the second half with a 12-4 run. Utah went back ahead 44-41 on a basket by Miller with 9:12 left, but UNLV came back again to lead 48-46 on a tip-in by Kaspars Kambala with 5:08 left.
Utah led 28-18 when Doleac converted a 3-point play with 4:34 left in the first half. But Utah was held scoreless the rest of the half, with UNLV scoring seven points to pull to 28-25 at halftime.