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MOUNTAIN WEST MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Nevada Las Vegas ends NCAA drought

March 11, 2007|From the Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Michael Umeh was the first one up the ladder to cut down the nets after No. 25 Nevada Las Vegas won the Mountain West Conference championship Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. He overcame a lot to earn that honor.

The senior guard who considered leaving UNLV after Coach Charlie Spoonhour stepped down for health reasons in 2004 led the Runnin' Rebels to their first NCAA tournament bid in seven years.

Umeh scored 18 points in UNLV's 78-70 comeback victory over No. 23 Brigham Young. The Rebels (28-6) overcame an early double-digit deficit against the top-seeded Cougars (25-8), who got a career-high 34 points from Keena Young.

"Definitely has been a long journey," Umeh said. "Definitely like to thank Spoon for giving me the opportunity to come here. Glad he was in the stands today."

Rebels Coach Lon Kruger, who became the fifth coach to take four teams to the NCAA tournament, was glad he was able to talk Umeh into staying three years ago.

"You've got to have people in the core of your program to get things turned, to get things going. Michael Umeh is as good as you can have in that regard," Kruger said.

Young, the conference player of the year, made 13 of 18 shots for the Cougars.

But it wasn't enough to prevent the Rebels from winning their 17th consecutive game on their home court, where they finished 19-1.

The second-seeded Rebels went without a basket for nearly six minutes, falling behind, 16-3, before capping their first week in the top 25 since 1992-93 with the conference title.

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