Defense wins championships. That's true in NCAA Men's Basketball as it is in the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball. Never was it more apparent than it was in last nights quarterfinal game between the UNLV Runnin' Rebels and the Runnin' Utes of the University of Utah.
Both teams known for their defense put on a display of full court press, trapping, double teaming and an overall pressure that would stop or least certainly slow down any team in the country.
The Rebels were relentless holding the Ute's to eight points in the first 10 minutes. Coach Lon Kruger who has been using between nine and 11 players each game, substituted freely in the first half bringing in fresh players every few minutes.
The only drawback was they couldn't establish a consistent offensive flow and saw an 11-point lead cut to four at halftime.
The Rebels came storming out in the second half and after a 10-0 run they never looked back as they finally turned the tables on the Runnin' Utes, who had defeated the Rebels the last three times they faced each other.
Junior guard and first team all conference player Tre'Von Willis led three Rebels in double figures with game high 13 points. He was joined by guard Anthony Marshall who had a double-double in his first conference tournament game. Along with his 13 points, the 6'3" freshman had a game high 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot.
Chase Stanback added to the Rebels attack with 10 points, six rebounds, and three steals. The Rebels out-rebounded the Utes 36-25 and caused 15 turnovers.
With the win here the Rebels move on to the semifinals where they will meet 14th ranked BYU for the third time this year. Each team won on it's home court and the Rebels have been very successful against the Cougars at the Thomas and Mack Center winning the last seven times they've met here.
Top seeded New Mexico meets San Diego State in the other semi final. Both teams were pushed to the limit in their opening round appearances as the Lobos defeated the Air Force Academy 75-69 and the Aztecs squeaked by the Colorado State Rams 72-71 increasing their chances for an NCAA bid.
Regardless of the results of the tournament it now appears that for the first time in their history four teams look like they will all be invited to the NCAA Tournament. In what was called a rebuilding year for the Mountain West at the beginning of the season the future is certainly looking very nice for the conference who have excelled on the gridiron and now on the hardwood as well.
The semi finals have the promise of some classic games tonight and the sellout Thomas and Mack Center crowd will be the place to be in Vegas. Tomorrows final is set for 2:00 PM local time and can be seen on the Mountain West Network part of CBS's coverage of College Basketball.
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