Rebels need 2 OTs to defeat Utah, 97-94

UNLV won its 10th straight game Wednesday night in its Mountain West Conference opener against visiting Utah. But it was far from easy. The Runnin' Rebels (14-2, 1-0) blew a 10-point second half lead and then an eight-point overtime before finally rallying to pull out a 97-94 double overtime victory over Utah (5-9, 0-1) at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Wendell White's layup with 17 seconds to go in the second overtime following a Wink Adams steal broke a 94-94 tie and proved to be the game-winning basket in a emotional and well-played contest that featured 14 lead changes and 15 ties.

Senior point guard Kevin Kruger, who sank 8 of 16 3-pointers en route to a team-high 25 points, added a free throw with 9.6 seconds remaining to put the Rebels ahead by three. The Utes missed a chance to force a third overtime when forward Shaun Green, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"I think (the win) is huge," Kevin Kruger said. "That would have been a tough one to swallow to lose in two overtimes at home and then have to go to Air Force because it doesn't get any easier from here on out. More importantly, I was just thinking how all those fans (12,369) came out to watch and we would have lost our opener. That wouldn't have been good at all."

"Obviously I thought that guys on both teams really, really played hard and made some big-time plays," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Our guys made some big plays and then Utah responded. It was just a really good ballgame."

UNLV appeared to have the game won in regulation on a 3-pointer by guard Wink Adams with 58.1 seconds left that gave UNLV a 79-76 lead.

Utah center Luke Nevill made just one of two free throws with 41.4 seconds left to cut the lead to 79-77. UNLV then ran the 35-second shot clock down and Adams missed a 3-pointer with four seconds left.

Nevill got the rebound and forward Stephen Weigh was then fouled about 35-feet away from the basket by Rebel guard Curtis Terry while attempting to get off a desperation shot with 0.2 seconds left.

"I definitely was not trying to foul him," Terry said. "I thought I had my hand on the top of the ball but I guess the ref thought otherwise. He thought that he was shooting. … Luckily he missed that first shot." But Weigh, who finished with 16 points, hit the next two tries to send the game into overtime.

Besides Kruger, UNLV had two other players top the 20-point mark. White had 24 points (but just 2 of 7 free throws) and 12 rebounds while Adams added 23 points, all after intermission.

UNLV, which held a 13 to 1 edge in steals, now travels to No. 20 Air Force (14-1, 1-0) on Saturday afternoon.

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