Tuesday, Jan. 9, 1990 | 2 a.m.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Keith Hill found the miracle that New Mexico State has been looking for against UNLV for the past seven years.
After 14 unsuccessful contests against the Rebels, Hill ended the Aggies' frustration by banking in a 16-foot jumper over Greg Anthony with five seconds left to secure a stunning 83-82 win over seventh-ranked UNLV before an elated crowd of 12,719 at the Pan American Center.
Hill was running out of options as the clock ticked down, so he took it upon himself to hit a leaner that sent UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian to his knees in disbelief.
The Rebels had a chance to steal back the win with four seconds left on the clock. Larry Johnson attempted a long pass to David Butler, but the pass was knocked out of bounds by James Anderson with two seconds remaining. New Mexico State called time out, then Tarkanian followed suit.
Anthony inbounded the ball to Johnson, whose desperation shot from 15 feet out over Anderson came up short to send the crowd out of the stands and onto the court to celebrate the Aggies' 10th win in a row.
The Aggies are now in first place in the Big West Conference with a 3-0 mark and 12-1 overall record. UNLV fell to 4-1 and 9-3 respectively. Tarkanian felt before the game that if UNLV could come out with a win, the Rebels would be well on their way to a conference championship. "New Mexico State played an excellent ball game," Tarkanian said. "The winning shot was a great one. Greg had him covered, but he somehow banked it in. It was an absolutely crazy shot.
"We had a chance to win. I thought we got off a pretty good shot with two seconds left. When it left Larry's hand I thought it had a chance to go. It came up just a little bit short."
That has happened more to the Aggies during the past 14 games with the Rebels. But on this night the miracles came New Mexico State's way. Trailing by seven at the half, the Aggies matchup zone was very effective at taking away any clean shots for UNLV.
New Mexico State worked hard to continually remain on the edge before tying the contest at 70-70 with 7:23 left in the game. It went back and forth until UNLV managed an 81-78 lead on Butler's follow up with 1:46 left.
"Then they crash the boards and get a follow basket while our guys are standing around," Tarkanian said of Anderson's rebound bucket with 1:16 remaining in the game. "We missed some key free throws and they made some big shots. I hate losing like this."
Stacey Augmon had the opportunity to put UNLV up by three on a fast-break basket. The Rebels shattered the Aggies' press, leaving Augmon alone under the basket. He appeared set for a dunk when Reggie Jordan crashed into the middle of his back to set up the free throws.
Augmon, who has been struggling from the line lately, missed the first one, then rattled in the second. The two-point lead wasn't enough. Jordan came down on the other end to pick up a foul against Butler.
He made the front end of the one-and-one, but missed the second. The long rebound came out to the Aggies to set up Hill's banker.
"Oh yeah," Hill said. "It was a bank shot all the way. I couldn't do anything else. Anthony had me all blocked out. It was a great win for us. The biggest we've ever had."
McCarthy completely concurred with Hill's assessment.
"Oh yeah," McCarthy said. "I knew he tried to bank it. It was a great shot and a great win for our program. We played hard and our crowd was amazing. They kept us going when UNLV opened up that 11-point lead in the first half. They have a great, great team."
Butler led the way for UNLV with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson and Anthony finished with 12 each, while Johnson and Anthony finished with 12 each, while Johnson pulled down eight boards himself. Anthony also had nine assists. Off-guard Randy Brown paced the Aggies' attack with 27 points. Hill added 19 and Anderson had 13.
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Rebels. They also had a nine-game conference winning streak dating back to last year. The 10-game mark for New Mexico State is its longest winning mark since the Aggies went to the Final Four during the 1969-70 season.