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Seven-year itch: Ex-champ UNLV secures long-awaited NCAA berth

March 11th, 2007 10:12 am by Associated Press



LAS VEGAS - The UNLV Runnin' Rebels raced into their first NCAA tournament in seven years Saturday night, rallying to beat No. 23 BYU 78-70 in the Mountain West championship.


Michael Umeh scored 18 points and Wink Adams 15 as the Rebels overcame an early double-digit deficit against the top-seeded Cougars, who got 34 points from Keena Young.


The second-seeded and 25th-ranked Runnin' Rebels (28-6) came out cold, going without a basket for nearly six minutes and falling behind 16-3 before capping their first week in the Top 25 since 1992-93 with the trophy and their first NCAA trip since 2000.


Lon Kruger became the fifth coach to take four teams to the NCAAs.


Young, the conference player of the year, finally snapped out of his funk - he had gone 7-for-26 from the floor in the first two games - by sinking 13 of 18 shots. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Rebels from winning their 17th straight game on their home court, where they finished 18-1.


BYU (25-8), coming off its first outright league title since 1987-88 and owner of the nation's longest homecourt winning streak at 31 games, still looks like a strong bet for an at-large NCAA bid.


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - George Washington's formula for success at the Atlantic 10 tournament was simple: Use pressure defense to force turnovers and turn the takeaways into points.


It worked well enough that the Colonials earned their third consecutive NCAA tournament berth with a win in the tournament final.


Carl Elliott scored 17 points and three teammates also scored in double figures for George Washington, but it was the Colonials' defensive intensity that left opponents off-kilter from the opening tap of the tournament.


In all three of its three games, George Washington forced at least 20 turnovers. The ripple effect was evident Saturday as the Colonials had 66 field-goal attempts to the Rams' 55. Dokun Akingbade scored a career-high 15 points and had a game-high nine rebounds.


Maureece Rice scored 12 points and Regis Koundjia had 11 for George Washington (23-8), which won the conference tournament two years ago and was an at-large NCAA selection last year.


The 2005-2006 team went 16-0 in the regular season but lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals to Temple, then reached the second round last year before losing against No. 1 seed Duke to finish 27-3.


Will Daniels scored a career-high 29 points for Rhode Island (19-14), which was appearing in its first tournament final since 1999.



BURLINGTON, Vt. - Jamar Wilson scored 22 points, Jason Siggers added 14 and the Great Danes won the America East conference championship to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.


Albany (23-9) reprised its victory over Vermont in last year's title game, but this time won before a raucous Vermont home crowd.


Marqus Blakely and Mike Trimboli led the Catamounts (25-7) with 10 points apiece.



RALEIGH, N.C. - Brian Greene's buzzer-beating layup lifted Florida A&M past Delaware State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.


Greene finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Rattlers (21-13), who earned their fourth NCAA tournament berth but first since 2004.


Roy Bright had 23 points and Elyon Bush added 10 for top-seeded Delaware State (21-12), which was denied its second trip to the NCAA tournament in three years.



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Trey Johnson scored 33 points to lead Jackson State over Mississippi Valley State in the Southwestern Athletic Conference final.


The win sends the Tigers (21-13) to the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years.


Carl Lucas led Mississippi Valley (18-15) with 22 points and Tychicus Snow added 15.



CLEVELAND - Doug Penno made a controversial 3-pointer off the glass as the horn sounded to give Miami a stunning win over Akron in the Mid-American Conference championship.


Penno's shot set off a premature celebration by Miami's players, coaches and fans at midcourt. Eventually, 0.6 seconds were put back on the clock, giving Akron one last chance.


But an inbounds pass to Nick Goddard went out of bounds, ending the game. Jeremiah Wood led the Zips (26-7) with 17 points.


Tim Pollitz finished with 19 points for Miami (18-14) and was named the tournament's MVP. Penno added 11 points for the RedHawks, who won their fourth MAC title and will make their 17th trip to the NCAAs.



LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Justin Hawkins scored 20 points and Elijah Ingram had 18 points, including four rainbow 3-pointers, to lead New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference title game.


New Mexico State (25-8), which two years ago finished 6-24 - the school's worst season in 39 years - completed its remarkable turnaround under coach Reggie Theus.


Jaycee Carroll scored 26 points and Durrall Peterson had 15 for Utah State (23-11), which beat No. 10 ranked Nevada in Friday's semifinals.


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