Hot-shooting Rebels face BYU in MWC final

Another night, another Mountain West Conference Tournament record for UNLV. The Runnin' Rebels (27-6), who set MWC Tourney marks for margin of victory (26 points) and steals (13) in their 80-54 win over Utah, broke the record for most 3-pointers in a tournament game with 15 during a 88-72 semifinal victory over Colorado State (17-13) on Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The win advanced No. 2 seed UNLV in Saturday's 4 p.m. championship game against regular season conference champion BYU (25-7), which held on for a 96-84 victory over Wyoming in Friday night's first semifinal. The game will be televised on VERSUS.

"Based on the standings and based on the play in conference season, you've got the two teams that have played the best during conference play," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "BYU is playing with a ton of confidence and I think our guys are too. I think it will be a great game."

The two teams split their two games during conference play with each team winning on its home floor. UNLV defeated the Cougars at the Thomas & Mack Center on Jan. 13, 83-75, without star point guard Kevin Kruger. BYU, behind hot-shooting Mike Rose (8 of 10 3-pointers), blew out the Rebels, 90-63, in the Feb. 3 rematch in Provo.

"I think so," Kevin Kruger said when asked if the Rebels had been looking forward to getting another shot at the Cougars after the 27-point drubbing at the Marriott Center. "You know, we really just had to take care of business yesterday and today. Tomorrow's going to be no different. We're going to go into tomorrow the same way we went into the last two days."

Kevin Kruger, who finished with a team-high 21 points and nine assists, hit five straight 3-pointers in the first half when UNLV connected on 9 of 12 treys en route to a 41-31 lead.

The Rebels, who finished 15 of 25 from 3-point range (60.0 percent), led by as many as 23 points early in the second half. Colorado State never got any closer than 11 points after that.

"I thought that we had seen the best UNLV team last Saturday (when the Rams lost to the Rebels, 65-47) but I thought they were even better tonight" Colorado State coach Dale Layer said. "There's no way in the world that I would have thought we would even be in the game having witnessed them shoot 15 for 25 from three-point range. … They just shot the lights out. Gee, what are you going to say?"

Guard Wink Adams celebrated his 22nd birthday by scoring 18 points, including 3 of 7 treys, while senior guard Michael Umeh added 15 points and five assists and was a perfect 3 of 3 from 3-point range. And senior center Joel Anthony, named Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year earlier in the week, had eight more blocked shots in just 20 minutes of action.

"He's a real big presence inside," 7-foot junior forward Jason Smith said. "He affected a lot of our shots."

Smith led Colorado State with 16 points and 11 rebounds but he also had seven of his team's 15 turnovers. It was his league-best 18th double-double this season.


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