No More March Magic: Rams fall to UNLV

DENVER -- Odartey Blankson had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and UNLV shot 56 percent in the second half to beat Colorado State 80-73 Friday night to reach the Mountain West Conference tournament final for the third straight year.

DENVER -- Odartey Blankson had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and UNLV shot 56 percent in the second half to beat Colorado State 80-73 Friday night to reach the Mountain West Conference tournament final for the third straight year.

UNLV (19-11) will meet Utah, a 54-51 winner over Brigham Young, in the tournament championship Saturday night. Jerel Blassingame added 19 points for the fourth-seeded Rebels, who have lost two straight MWC finals and haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2000.

Matt Nelson had 20 points to lead eighth-seeded Colorado State, which couldn't repeat last year's championship run as the sixth seed.

UNLV shot just 36 percent in the first half, but opened the second by hitting seven of its first eight shots to go up 53-42 with over 14 minutes left.

Colorado State responded with a 7-0 run to get within to three, then took a 56-55 lead on Ronnie Clark's rebound slam at 8:25.

The Rebels answered with a 12-2 run and went up 70-60 on Demetrius Hunter's fastbreak layup with 3:10 left. Colorado State got no closer than seven the rest of the way.

UNLV certainly didn't get off to a very good start.

The Rebels had just four points in the first 12 minutes in the quarterfinals against New Mexico and weren't much better at the start of this one.

UNLV did hit six of its first eight shots, but missed eight straight and had just two points in six minutes before Blankson hit a pullup 3-pointer with 7:43 left. UNLV was just 9-for-25 in the first half.

Fortunately for the Rebels, Colorado State wasn't any better.

The Rams missed five of six shots during UNLV's shooting slump and went 7{ minutes without a field goal until Jon Rakiecki hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut UNLV's lead to 37-33.

Nelson was the only Colorado State player who could get much going in the first half

He was frustrated by Air Force's double and triple teams in the quarterfinals Thursday, but had plenty of room against UNLV.

Facing single coverage most of the half, he was 4-of-8 for 14 points -- four more than he had against the Falcons.

Colorado State also finished the first half 9-for-25.

The flow of the game certainly didn't help either team. The officials called it tight from the start, with 29 fouls and 41 free throws in the first half alone.

Frustrated by the calls, Colorado State coach Dale Layer was hit with a technical foul with 56 seconds left, and fans from both teams booed the officials as they left the floor for halftime.

UNLV finished 30-for-39 on free throws, while Colorado State was 22-of-28.


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