NCAA TOURNAMENT:

One and done: Late trey helps Northern Iowa bury UNLV

UNI’s Ali Farokhmanesh hits 3-pointer in closing seconds to send Rebels home early from Oklahoma City

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Sam Morris

UNLV forward Matt Shaw walks off the court March 18 after UNLV was defeated by Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

UNI Late Three Downs UNLV

Despite tying the game late, UNLV falls to Northern Iowa, 69-66, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, after Ali Farokhmanesh hits a three with five seconds to play.

NCAA Tournament - UNLV vs. UNI

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins puts his head in his hands after the Rebels lost to UNI Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. UNI won the game 69-66 on a last-second 3-point shot. Launch slideshow »

OKLAHOMA CITY — Every year, during the first week of the NCAA tournament, CBS makes its mark by reliving classic finishes from tournaments past.

And when Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh got a clean look at a 25-foot 3-pointer in a tied game against UNLV with just seconds remaining Thursday night at the Ford Center, there was an eerie feeling in the building that told you another memory was about to be made.

The ball splashed through the net with just less than five seconds remaining and ultimately spelled the end of a 25-9 campaign for the Rebels, who lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game for the first time in the Lon Kruger era, 69-66.

Maybe the only ones who didn't have that feeling were the UNLV players, who just minutes earlier had kept the game from spiraling out of their control when trailing by nine points with 7:22 to play.

The comeback hit its peak with 40 seconds to go when sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield hit a trey from the left wing to tie the game, 66-66.

"When Oscar hit that three, I was thinking win," junior guard Tre'Von Willis said. "I thought we were gonna win the game. That's how we think.

"It hurts. It's not a good feeling at all. The guy made a good shot. I don't think he'll make it two times out of 10. It was about a 27-footer. The guy just knocked it down and I guess they deserved to win from that."

The Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament champions advanced out of the tournament's first round for the first time since 1990 with the win. As a reward, the Panthers will take on the tournament's top overall seed — Kansas — at 2:40 p.m. Las Vegas time Saturday .

UNLV, meanwhile, is left to wonder what could have been had it been able to control the game's tempo the way it did for the first 10 minutes.

A big talking point coming into Thursday's No. 8 vs. No. 9 clash was whose pace the game would be played at. Northern Iowa came in allowing just 54.3 points per game with its careful, slowed-down approach, while UNLV entered averaging 73.3 points a contest, creating easy offense off its stingy pressure defense.

It wound up landing somewhere in the middle, as each team inflicted its style on the other at times.

UNLV bothered UNI early in creating a 20-12 lead midway through the first half. The major offensive spark was Matt Shaw, who came in as a reserve and quickly hit a pair of 3-pointers.

After struggling to get good, open looks on offense up to that point, the Panthers pulled off a 17-6 run, going ahead by as many as three before trailing by a point at the half, 36-35.

"On the defensive end, they just switched everything," UNLV freshman guard Anthony Marshall said. "On offense, they attacked more, putting the ball in (Kwadzo Ahelegbe's) hands, he had a good way of using his body to get into our bodies, keeping us off of him."

While 7-footer Jordan Eglseder, who was a force in the first half with nine points and seven rebounds, took a backseat, Ahelegbe essentially controlled the game for much of the second half.

His craftiness with the ball helped attract defenders and, in turn, put the Panthers in the bonus with just under eight minutes left to play.

"They're a veteran group, and we knew they were going to play hard for all 40 minutes. That's what the tournament's about," Willis said. "We felt like we rattled them a bit, had them on their heels all game long. They were in the bonus both halves early. Free throws kept them in it. I don't think they missed one.

"Just things like that pretty much killed us."

Northern Iowa was 20-of-23 from the line and was 7-of-7 down the stretch after getting into the bonus in the second half.

At the same time, UNI was not letting UNLV get many clean looks on the offensive end.

The Rebels began to look like themselves again late during the frantic run to tie the game and were forced to think on the fly as Northern Iowa took the ball up the floor following Bellfield's 3-pointer with no time on the clock.

While Bellfield guarded the ball up top, Shaw helped off of his man to set a trap up top.

Amidst all of the rotation, Farokhmanesh was set up with just enough space once he took a pass from Johnny Moran. With Willis closing in on him, the shot had his signature, feathery touch, catching only the twine.

"We wanted to double early in the clock, feeling that they wanted to run the clock down for a last play," Kruger said. "They kind of did that instinctively on their own and did a good job. Through it all, the kid steps up and makes a deep three, and credit him for that."

Added UNI teammate Lucas O'Rear: "As soon as it left his hand, I was like, 'Oh, it's going in.' We just had to go down, play some defense and ended up with a win."

O'Rear was the one who then guarded Willis on the other end, as UNLV got a shot in-bounding the ball under the UNI hoop with 1.6 seconds left.

Bellfield's in-bounds pass floated into the grip of the Rebels' leading scorer and most clutch performer, but there wasn't enough time left to create a clean look on time from up top.

Moments later, the team was left in stunned silence in the locker room, with everyone — players, managers and staff — staring blankly at the ground in disbelief.

"I'm proud of the guys, because we responded to adversity," said Steve Jones, one of UNLV's two departing seniors. "It's a good year; there's a good future for the rest of the guys. It's just a terrible way to end it."

Farokhmanesh led all scorers with 17 points, including a 5-of-9 showing from long range.

For UNLV, Willis and Bellfield each tallied 13 points, five assists and no turnovers. Matt Shaw led the way with 14 points in 22 minutes off of the bench, while Chace Stanback shook off a slow start to end the night with 11 points and six rebounds.

But nothing UNLV took away from Thursday night could prove to be as important as the feeling from the immediate aftermath, as a tournament berth will be a minimal expectation in the 2010-11 campaign.

The future is bright for the program, as roughly the entire core of this year's team will be back next season, along with the additions of 6-foot-8 Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas and 6-foot-11 redshirting freshman forward Carlos Lopez.

"After the beginning of the season, beating highly ranked teams, being ranked, competing in the Mountain West for a championship and going to the NCAA Tournament, it's a great opportunity and hopefully it's built up next year some more for us," Bellfield said. "We have to have that ego to want to come back here and do more damage."

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  1. So, so, soooooo close!!! Thanks for a great season, fellas.

  2. tough but great game, but they need too remember that the game is not over until the clock hits zero, and why leave the guy with the hot hand open?

    Great season for a re-building team. Practice shots all off season, and add some aggression, and more rebounding drills!

    Lessons learned this time around.....come back string next season fellas! go rebs

  3. All Obama's fault..lmao

  4. Go ahead and fault the Rebs for leaving him open on the three, but how many of us saw that go up and thought "Phew! He shot that from so far out it doesn't have a cha...CRAP."

  5. As an alumni of the University of Kansas, I just don't get UNLV fans. The fact that UNLV even made it to the tournament is a great accomplishment. What more do you fans want? Sure, UNLV has been the national champion in the past. But that was during the Tark days and let's face it, there was quite a bit of bending of the rules. UNLV has a solid basketball program. But it will never be in the same league as Duke, North Carolina, or Kansas. These programs are the elite of college basketball and always will be. Not too mention academically they rank far above UNLV. UNLV is like the relative in the trailer park who won the lottery. Be happy for them but money doesn't buy class. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. A disappointing end to an overall good season. It appears the program is headed in the right direction and we have a lot to look forward to next year. The Rebs definately need improvement to thier inside game if they want to take their game to the next level.

    Another shot at knocking off the "we never bend the rules Jayhawks" would be nice.

  7. You're right ya jack*ss, we should just except mediocrity and never strive to win or be elite. You're an idiot to think that other Universities will never rise to national prominence.

    BTW, you've got your head straight up your *ss if you don't think that Kansas bends the rules now. Also, oh yeah, North Carolina is definitely where I want to be right now. Good call flake.

  8. Great season Rebs--nothing to be ashamed of. With all the questions surrounding this team at the beginning of the year (youth, questions of chemistry, etc), I think we way surpassed expectations, beating 4 ranked teams, making it to the MWC championship game, and making the NCAA tourney. Lets also not forget that we played half the season without Jasper. I am very excited for next year.

    One thing we need to really work for next year is finding a way to play our pressure D without fouling so much. Because we are so deep we really never had individual guys in foul trouble, but we constantly put teams into the bonus early in halves. I know there is always that trade off of giving up some fouls when you play a high presure D, but I think we can still play a little bit smarter ball on the defensive end.

    If Anthony Marshall can improve his shot (both from the field and from the free throw line) he will be a beast. Keep your heads up Rebels--you should be proud. Don't listen to the haters--while we are all disappointed, your real fans are proud of your determination, heart, and effort. Go Rebels!

  9. All I know is that when Lloyd Daniels was booted out of the UNLV program (before actually being enrolled), Larry Brown at Kansas was on the phone trying to get Lloyd to go there. Yeah, Kansas- a totally clean program. Kiss off.

  10. Nice backhanded compliment blake. Were you satisfied when Roy boy kept taking teams to the tournament and not coming away with championships? Or when Bill Self's squads lost to Bradley and Bucknell in the first round? Why do fans of other schools find it necessary to comment on UNLV? Don't they have their own programs to worry about? BTW Brady Morningstar DUI, Tyshawn Taylor brawl, the Morris twins shooting bb guns out of their dorm room...oh yeah blake you guys are the real elite. No "trailer park" behavior there. Tool.

  11. What a moron. He is a Kansas fan enough said.

  12. Blake the Fake.

    You attended U of Kansas, but you must have flunked english 101. It's "alumnus or almuna" dumba$$. Alumni is the plural form...and I learned that and many other things at the school in the trailer park.

  13. With the game tied and under 10 seconds, if you're UNLV's coach and the other team chucks up a 27-footer rather than work for a high-% shot, you'll let them have that deep three EVERY time.

    The reason that kid was open is because we were doubling/pressuring the ball and Tre' had to stay somewhat back to prevent an easy inside shot. As soon as the pass was on it's way to that kid, Tre started to pop out and contest the shot - but seriously who shoots it from that far away with the game tied? Props to him, he made it. If he misses it his coach is asking him "WTF were you doing?" Oh, but I forgot: Kruger can't coach, we don't have enough talent, blah-blah-blah.

    It was a hard-fought game against a very under-rated NI team. It hurts but we've got nothing to be ashamed of. Easy fodder for you haters to pile on - especially if you know very little about the game of basketball. "Why aren't we in the Final Four every year?" "Kruger sucks!" "We don't recruit good enough players!"

    Think it's easy to be a top 10 team every year? Ask Billy Donovan how easy it is. Or Roy Williams. Or Jim Calhoun. Or Ben Howland. Or whatever loser coaches Arizona right now. Etc, etc.

    The REAL Rebel fans stick by their team, win or lose. The REAL Rebel fans recognize that this was a young team, we were well-coached, and we've got a ton of potential to make a deep tourney run next year and beyond. The rest of you just want something to complain about. Why don't you do the REAL Rebel fans a favor and go jump on someone else's bandwagon?

    I'm talking to you Sufferin' and friends: I hear Kentucky is good this year. Go enjoy their run at a national championship before the NCAA drops the hammer on them like they did on UMass and Memphis.

  14. Finally got to put faces with names on UNLV team.u guys r tuff,tuff,tuff!On the other hand UNI is so unassuming!IT was a very entertaining game and thanks to all who played their hearts out.UNLV will be force to reckon with in the not so distance future............ DUDE FROM EASTERN IOWA!

  15. The fact that an entire season can vanish in a second is why the tourney is so great. Too bad for the Rebels that it was their season that vanished. Props to UNI for winning, and best of luck to them vs. KU.

    The future is bright for the Rebels, with two nice big inside bangers ready to compliment what's already a talented roster.

  16. UNLV started a Freshman, 3 Soph. and a Jr. Bright future ahead for this team and program! Great season and I am looking forward to next year! Get that practice facility built and Polee or Joseph in Rebel Red!

  17. The double handed slaaam dunk by AM and getting the foul should be enough to stay positive for next year. This teams best days are still ahead. Thanks for a great year Rebels.

  18. If only the NCAA tournament could be played at the T&M. Oh, and the Rebels play their rival, BYU. You gotta play all the games.

  19. Nothin' to be ashamed of, boys. It's not a GREAT year, but a good one...and that beats a bad year every time!

  20. Future basketball looks good for The Rebels.

    This was a good not great year.

    I think Lon Kruger got out coached by Northern Iowa.

    P.S. Lon Iowa is looking for a new coach and they have golf courses in Iowa

  21. Well Reb's fans look at it this way, at least your team got out of vegas for a few days. But really even if you somehow pulled off that win. Kansas would tear you guys apart. So at least you went out in the 1st round in a close game!

  22. Good season, Rebs. But, you know how much you have left to accomplish. This team desperately needs an inside game, or we can expect this type of outcome year in and year out. Let's hope that Lon's crop of bigs will get the job done next season, create better spacing in our offensive sets, and provide another scoring option.

    Be happy, but never satisfied, Rebels. That's the mentality of a champion. Thanks for some great memories this year, and see you back at the Mack in November.

    -NV Southern

  23. "UNLV has a solid basketball program. But it will never be in the same league as Duke, North Carolina, or Kansas. These programs are the elite of college basketball and always will be." -Blake

    It may or may not be, but that is because, Lamar Odom excluded, UNLV doesn't pay it's players. Your bcs boys are on payroll; book it.

    And you're right...those programs always will be. They make too much money for 'the most crooked organization in America' to ever perform a proper regulatory investigation.

    Rock chalk that, homer.

  24. Thanks for the fun this season boys. Thanks to Ryan, Ray, and Christine for keeping us up to date. Can't wait for next October to get here. Gonna be exciting to have all our talent back with the experience now. Great job Lon and staff.
    Go Rebs!

  25. Hey BleedsPoo,
    I'm guessing your a Cougar fan...What's your excuse going to be next year when we beat BYU in Provo like we did last year and almost did this year?
    The Cougars win their first Tourny game in 17 something seasons and now you wanna talk? We're supposed to cheer for you for the good of the conference, but it's fans like you that make this so hard.

  26. RebelSteve In reality it is rebel fans who make it hard for others. Always got to have the last word and a parting insult. No wonder the rest of the country does not respect UNLV.

  27. I'm sorry to see them out on the first round. The team did great this year. I'm happy for the kids and the coach.

  28. Last word? Is that why you're still talking? Homer you're a classless piece of crap. It takes a special kind of freak like you to insult someone on a message board with rediculous accusations and without evidence. And even if you did, this is not the forum to do so. I don't know if even hell will take you.

  29. I am so happy. Now this is over and there are no more sports for Vegas to gush myopic over. I would love to make jokes about the Stars but they are they're own jokes.

  30. What a great game you gave us right down to the finish. God, gimme shelter, "It's just a shot away, it's just a shot away".

  31. Homer:

    For insulting UNLV at every opportunity, you sure seem to never have learned how to carry on a logical argument.

    This is how:

    1.Make an assertion
    2. Back it up with evidence

    For example :"Meanwhile Tark was at Piero's molesting young girls". That is an assertion. Could you back it up with evidence? If not, you are the most vile slanderer imaginable.

  32. test12, how many different names do you have? Oh well, as many names as you have, you still have only one intermediate word in your vocabulary. It's been years now, haven't you picked up a dictionary yet. If you don't like Vegas, get the hell out moron!

  33. Please don't feed the troll (homer).

  34. I'm still trying to figure out why Shaw was frantically trying to trap the ballhandler on the last possesion. Did he know the game was tied? It inevitably leaves somebody wide open....he did play a great game though. Very tough loss.

  35. Shaw was doing what coach Kruger wanted

  36. ^^ You assume.

  37. Why does every loss have to be Kruger getting outcoached? Why can't some people just accept the fact that we got beat on a hail mary-type shot that happened to go in? I'm sure Lon knew what he was doing, the kid just hit a miracle shot and Tre didnt get a good look.

    Anyway, I thought we had a great season. Nothing to be ashamed of.

  38. Overall, it was a very good season. Rebels could have faded away after the 3-game losing streak. They rose up and got into the dance. Kids played hard. Kruger coached hard. Next year could be awesome.

    Definitely some things to improve on though. Just want to say again, for all the self-righteous ones in the post area, that constructive criticism, based on sound basketball principles, not malicious personal attacks, does not constitute a hater. I, personally, got really riled up at the failure of the Rebs to recognize who was the best shooter on the NI team and cover him at the end. If you know anything about them, you know that Farouk...'s shot was not a prayer or a miracle. It's what he does and has been doing for them all season.

    Admittedly, I did let fly with an unnecessary and regretful "moron" in there aimed at Coach Kruger, but just cause I was pissed we lost. Any true Rebel fan should also have been upset at losing. Doesn't mean I am going to quit loving the Rebels, ain't going to happen! Doesn't mean I won`t pat on the back any of this years Rebels if I meet them. But one of the reasons this posting deal is so popular is because it allows one to talk about the positive and the negative. So, those of you that think anything slightly critical is hating, just chill out.

    Work on your jumpers boys, get stronger physically and mentally (so we can board better), and we'll be here waiting for you to walk it out next year.

    Peace, out.

  39. its a shame that it had to be this way.

  40. i'm excited that that the hottest cheerleader on the team in only a junior!

  41. Tough loss, good season though....especially with all the uncertaintities coming into the year. Go Rebels!

  42. thanks for everything boys! your right icr there needs to be a yang to our ying...But if you love them rebs through & through these "haters" are nothing more than a fly on your soup. let them say what they want everybody in rebel nation knows we got a storied program and it's only gonna get better!!....top 10, a top 3 seed in the tourny and we just may run to or through the elite 8 in "10-11"!! Thanks for the great year boys...you guys got BIG HEART.remebers this gut renching feeling all summer and drive us to the top where we belong!!!...much love!!!!
    REBELS B!@TCHE$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOMEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO KANSAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. Yay Rebels for making it to the tourney. Now practice your free throws for next year please.

  45. Just a side comment as I read blake's comment at the top regarding Kansas. Rock Chalk JayHawk, huh? Well, wonder where he is now? Maybe with the rest of his Jayhawks sitting at home preparing to WATCH the 2nd weekend?

  46. I love my rebels!!!!!

    @homer,

    you pay an awful lot of attention to a school and town you hate. Are you a fan of any team or do just focus all your energy on bashing UNLV???