unlv basketball:

Rebels recall 2005 stunner in San Diego

Down by 10 with 29 seconds remaining, epic comeback among most memorable

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV guard Curtis Terry celebrates making a three pointer during the first half of their 76-61 defeat of BYU in the Mountain West Conference championship game Saturday, March 15, 2008 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV Rebels (21-8, 9-6) at San Diego State Aztecs (20-8, 10-5)

  • Where: Cox Arena
  • When: 7 p.m.
  • Coaches: Lon Kruger is 112-50 in five seasons at UNLV and 430-283 in 23 overall seasons; Steve Fisher is 167-138 in 10 seasons at SDSU and 351-220 in 18 overall seasons.
  • Line: Aztecs by 4
  • Series: UNLV leads, 31-13
  • Last time: San Diego State won, 68-66, in overtime in Las Vegas on Feb. 3
  • TV/Radio: CBS College Sports/ESPN Radio 1100-AM

THE REBELS

  • G Tre’Von Willis (6-4, 195) 11.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.3 apg
  • G Wink Adams (6-0, 200) 14.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg
  • G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 175) 6.2 ppg, 3.3 apg
  • F René Rougeau (6-6, 210) 11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg
  • F Joe Darger (6-7, 225) 9.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg
  • Bench: C Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 5.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg; G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 4.8 ppg; F Mo Rutledge (6-3, 225) 4.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg; C Brice Massamba (6-10, 255) 2.2 ppg.
  • What to watch: Adams had a team-best 16 points in that OT loss to SDSU in Las Vegas a month ago, but he only went 4-for-15 from the field. The Rebels only shot 33.9% from the field in that game. UNLV is 2-2 in its final regular-season road game under Kruger.

THE AZTECS

  • G Richie Williams (5-10, 162) 7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4 apg
  • F Tim Shelton (6-7, 241) 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg
  • F Kyle Spain (6-5, 220) 14.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
  • F Lorrenzo Wade (6-6, 225) 14.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
  • F Ryan Amoroso (6-8, 263) 7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
  • Bench: F Billy White (6-8, 226) 9 ppg, 3.9 rpg; G D.J. Gay (6-0, 155) 7 ppg; F Mehdi Cheriet (6-8, 212) 5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg
  • What to watch: Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune that White is “iffy” for the game. The Green Valley High product has missed four games with a hyper-extended knee and he came down with strep throat this week. Spain had a game-high 17 points in SDSU’s win at UNLV a month ago.

SAN DIEGO – René Rougeau kept track of UNLV’s incredible comeback at San Diego State four years ago on a computer in Scott Hoffman’s dorm room.

Hoffman wouldn’t walk onto new coach Lon Kruger’s program until the following fall. Rougeau, redshirting as a walk-on, didn’t travel with the team.

A fifth-year senior swingman, Rougeau now is a versatile leader of the Rebels who will play his final regular-season game in a UNLV uniform tonight at 7 against SDSU in Cox Arena.

The noon tip-off on Feb. 12, 2005, was on television, but the dorm didn't get the cable package. So the computer updates were the only way for Rougeau and Hoffman to keep score.

It was one for the ages.

Trailing by 10 points with 29 seconds remaining, Curtis Terry and the rest of the Rebels rallied to force overtime, where they kept rolling toward a 93-91 victory.

“We were watching ESPN all night long,” Rougeau said. “They kept showing the comeback. The guys were all happy. That was a good time for us.

“It was a tough season for us, but that was a turnaround. It looked like things were turning around at that point.”

Scott Chinarian, a Rebels team manager, provided Rougeau and Hoffman with periodic updates via their cell phones.

“Curt hit that big ‘three,’ and Jerel (Blassingame) hit a big ‘three,’ ” Rougeau said. “There were some big free throws that helped. San Diego State missed some free throws, too. Curt made a name for himself in that game and had a great career.”

“The Rebels played it to perfection. I wish I could have been there in person, watching from the bench. I’m sure it was a great sight to see. It was a big deal. I knew that I had come to the right school.”

Rougeau knows his history, too.

“That hadn’t happened in a while,” he said, “since North Carolina-Duke.”

On March 2, 1974, North Carolina trailed the Blue Devils by eight points before the Tar Heels – without the benefit of the 3-point shot – rallied, forced overtime and defeated Duke.

In the pantheon of fantastic finishes, UNLV’s stunner belongs in the same sentence with Carolina’s epic comeback.

Terry, a freshman swingman, tallied 17 points in the incredible game and played against the Aztecs for three more seasons.

Before each of those ensuing games, SDSU coach Steve Fisher had a few words with Terry.

“I can’t believe you guys won that game,” Fisher told Terry, who shrugged.

“That game was amazing,” said Terry, who had been released from Los Angeles in the NBA Development League a few weeks ago after watching a UNLV practice.

“We didn’t have a chance. We shouldn’t have won that game. You’re not supposed to win those types of games.”

With 29 seconds left, Matt Thomas sank a pair of free throws to give the Aztecs an 81-71 lead.

Blassingame and Michael Umeh missed 3-pointers for the Rebels, but Odartey Blankson grabbed Umeh’s board and put it back in to cut the deficit to eight points with 18 seconds left.

Marcus Slaughter quickly lost the ball to UNLV’s pressure, and he fouled Blankson on a 3-point shot. Blankson hit all three free throws to get the Rebels to within five.

Then Terry committed a crucial foul against Trimaine Davis.

“I remember saying to coach that it was a pretty desperate situation,” said UNLV assistant coach Steve Henson. “Curtis made a great play, he made a smart foul away from the ball without getting an intentional call.

“He didn’t use his hands. That was a key thing that went unnoticed. If that’s an intentional foul, game over. They would have had the free throws and the ball.”

Instead, Davis missed both free throws with 14 ticks left, Blankson nabbed the board and Blassingame nailed a 3-pointer with nine seconds left to cut the UNLV deficit to two.

“It just happened so quickly,” Kruger said. “Everything, of course, has to fall your way to even give it a chance. You just can’t imagine that ever happening, and it happened, which is kind of crazy.

“It was just phenomenal.”

Three seconds later Blassingame fouled Davis, who missed the first freebie but made the second for an 82-79 lead for the Aztecs.

UNLV used the last six seconds to work the ball to Terry, who canned a 3-pointer from the right side just before the buzzer to force the extra five-minute session.

With 50 seconds left in overtime, Ricky Morgan stole a ball from Brandon Heath and sailed in for a layup to give UNLV the lead, at 92-91, for good.

With 28 seconds left, Morgan connected on a free throw for a two-point cushion, but Chris Walton went to the line for SDSU with one second remaining.

And he missed both free throws. The first was an air ball.

“Never seen anything like that,” Henson said. “If one thing had been different, it wouldn’t have happened. Our guys hung in there and made one play after the next.

“I haven’t thrown the DVD of that game in there in a while, but I’ve thrown it in there a few times in the past just to check it out. Just amazing.”

Rougeau said he and his teammates replayed the ending of that game, over and over, for a few days.

“The team really stuck together,” he said. “Anything can happen when a team sticks together. I was happy for coach. It was his first season. He needed something like that under his belt.”

At the Mountain West Conference tournament the next season in Denver, the Rebels trailed the Aztecs by three points with 15 seconds left.

As soon as a UNLV guard passed the center of the court, Fisher had one of his players foul the Rebel.

“He didn’t let us get the shot up,” Terry said. “Obviously, they learned from it. We learned you can never give up. You can always come back. Anything’s possible.”

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