UNLV Escapes Foul End, Downs Georgia Tech
By Steve Berkowitz
UNLV held the Yellow Jackets to one field goal during the first nine minutes of the second half and defeated them, 90-81, in a national semifinal before 17,675 at McNichols Arena.
The Runnin' Rebels (34-5) play Duke on Monday night for the NCAA championship. The Blue Devils (29-8) advanced with a 97-83 victory over Arkansas in tonight's first semifinal.
Tarkanian, nicknamed Tark the Shark, refused to bite on a question regarding the apparent good-guys-vs.-bad-guys element of the final, but said winning it "would be a tremendous thrill.
"But," he added, "I think the greatest thing of all is, it would be great for the state of Nevada, for the city of Las Vegas and the university. I'm not into the thing where some people say, 'Wouldn't this be nice as some kind of a . . . '."
He apparently was referring to his 13-year battle with the NCAA, resolved just this week. But the Shark decided to bite his tongue.
Junior forward Stacey Augmon led UNLV by scoring 22 points, grabbing nine rebounds and limiting Georgia Tech's Dennis Scott to nine second-half points after he had scored 20 in the first half.
Augmon, one of the nation's best defensive players, denied Scott the ball with such tenacity that the junior forward from Reston, Va., did not take a shot for the first four minutes of the second half and did not make one until a little less than 11 minutes remained.
Butler, a senior center from Washington, D.C., and Scurry, a senior forward, committed their fourth fouls in a span of 21 seconds with more than 12 minutes to play. Nevertheless, they picked up the slack for junior forward Johnson, who fouled out with a little less than seven minutes left after scoring 15 points.
Butler ended with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Scurry with 11 rebounds -- all in the second half.
"When we got Johnson in foul trouble, I thought we had a chance," said Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins, whose team cut a 76-69 deficit to 76-74 in the 1 1/2 minutes following Johnson's departure.
But UNLV sophomore guard Anderson Hunt sandwiched three-point goals around a missed one-and-one by Scott, and the Yellow Jackets (28-7) never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Hunt, who entered shooting 43 percent in the tournament and 23 percent from three-point territory, scored 20 points on seven-of-15 shooting, including five-of-nine three-pointers. He also had seven assists.
"I wasn't even thinking about the shooting," said Hunt. "My teammates and coaches were telling me to keep shooting. You had to love that. Most would tell you to stop."
"When Anderson shoots well," Tarkanian said, "it puts us at another level. His three-pointers were really critical."
So were those of junior guard Greg Anthony, who made three of four and scored 14 points in addition to handing out five assists.
Senior guard Brian Oliver scored 24 points for Georgia Tech, which also got 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists from freshman guard Kenny Anderson. But Anderson charged into Augmon with more than 14 1/2 minutes left and committed his fourth foul about three minutes later. He was replaced at that point, and while he was on the bench the Yellow Jackets went from trailing by 61-57 to a 76-69 deficit with seven minutes to play.
But the 4 1/2 minutes without Anderson were not the difference for Georgia Tech. The nearly six-minute stretch without a field goal at the start of the second half was.
"We're disappointed we lost, but it was a great run," said Cremins, whose team set a school record for victories in a season and reached the Final Four for the first time.
Nevada-Las Vegas led, 18-10, about five minutes into the game. Following a jumper by Georgia Tech forward Johnny McNeil, Anthony made it 21-12 by connecting on a three-pointer.
But Scott responded with a three-pointer, and following a driving shot by Johnson, the Yellow Jackets scored 11 consecutive points to take a 26-23 advantage with a little more than 11 minutes left in the half.
They extended the lead to 53-46 by halftime because UNLV went scoreless for the final 3 1/2 minutes.
"In the first half, they pretty much did anything they wanted. . . . They really outran us," said Tarkanian, whose team had limited its first four tournament opponents to 34.8-percent shooting. "In the first half, we were like a boxer feeling our way around. In the second half, we went after them real well."
Georgia Tech shot 34.5 percent in the second half and scored just 28 points -- its lowest one-half output of the season.
The Yellow Jackets were outscored, 10-1, to start the second half, with a three-pointer by Hunt giving UNLV its first lead in about 12 minutes and prompting Cremins to call a timeout with 16:21 to play.
"We kind of lost our composure," said Cremins, whose team shot zero-for-seven with two turnovers until a layup by Oliver with 14:07 to play gave them their final lead, 57-56. "We wanted to work the ball around a little bit more and get it to Dennis, and it just seemed, boom, boom, boom, we just got completely out of our rhythm."
Oliver, who was fouled on his drought-breaking layup, failed to convert the three-point play. Augmon then connected on a three-point goal.
Oliver missed a shot in the lane, and Butler made it 61-57 on a low-post jumper.
But Butler committed his fourth foul with 12:31 left and Scurry, who replaced him, committed his fourth foul 21 seconds later. Scurry's foul put UNLV over the limit.
The Yellow Jackets could not take advantage of that, though. And to make matters worse, Anderson committed his fourth foul with 11:38 to go and was replaced by Brown.
Johnson then gave UNLV a 63-57 lead with a follow-up basket. But Scott made his first three-pointer of the half with 10:48 left and Brown made a jumper. Georgia Tech was within 63-62.
After Augmon dunked, things continued to brighten for the Yellow Jackets when Johnson committed his fourth foul with 9:42 to play and was replaced by Butler. But after Scott made it 71-69 with a three-pointer, Anthony hit a three-pointer and Butler threw down a monstrous fast-break dunk. At a television timeout with 7:02 left, UNLV led by 76-69.
Following the break, Anderson returned for the Yellow Jackets and Johnson for the Runnin' Rebels. Twelve seconds later, Johnson returned to the bench after fouling out on a missed shot in the lane by Oliver. Scurry went back in.
"When I went off the court," Johnson said, "I saw the look in Mo's eyes. I wasn't too worried. He was all rebounding."
Oliver made one of two shots, Butler lost the ball, and Oliver scored on a fast break. Anthony missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Anderson cut UNLV's lead to 76-74 with fast-break layup off a nice spin move.
Georgia Tech got no closer.
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