It didn't start out that way. UNLV bolted out the gate with a 20-3 advantage over the first seven minutes of the game. But that is when things got tough for the Rebels. UNLV only managed 9 points over the last 12 minutes of the first half while Utah started to heat up. Phil Cullen drained a couple of three pointers and helped the Utes get back into the game. Utah trailed only by four at the half at 29-25.
Utah took their first lead of the game in the second half 40-39. Utah slightly
extended the lead to 43-41 when Utah head coach Rick Majerus was whistled for
a technical. His tirade came after Martin Osimani was called for a blocking
foul. Dalron Johnson connected on both technical free throws and Marcus Banks
complete both ends of a one and one to give the lead back to the Rebels with
a little over ten minutes remaining in the contest.
UNLV held onto a 62-61 lead with four minutes remaining. Dalron Johnson connected on a field goal and two free throws to extend the Rebel lead to 66-61.
Utah missed on their next trip down court and Jevon Banks streaked down the left sideline and received a friendly roll to give the Rebels a seemingly comfortable 68-61 lead. But the next trip down the floor, Jeff Johnsen hit a three pointer and was fouled on the play. Johnsen hit the free throw to bring the Utes within three.
Vince Booker provided the dagger in the heart when he swished a three pointer with a minute remaining to give the Rebels a 71-65 lead. The Utes never came within four points of the Rebels after that.
Dalron Johnson led all players with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Banks
dropped in 12 points but also added 6 assists for the Rebels. Chris Richardson
was a perfect 3-3 from three point range for 13 points. Jevon Banks rounded
out the Rebels in double figures with 12 points.
The Utes were led by Nick Jacobson's 19 points, but he only connected on 5-16 from the floor. Utah, who set a MWC record earlier in the year against the Rebels with 17 three pointers, shot only 38% from the floor on the game. But the Utes managed to stay close with 11 of 30 three pointers.
UNLV next faces San Diego State in the championship game. The Aztecs defeated top seeded Wyoming earlier in the night 70-69. The winner of the game receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Tip off is at 7:00 pm at the Thomas and Mack Center