How Sweet It Is
March 18, 2007
CHICAGO (AP) - Kevin Kruger made dad proud. And he made UNLV a winner again in the NCAA tournament.
Kruger connected on three straight 3-pointers late in the second half Sunday and the Runnin' Rebels rallied to beat second-seeded Wisconsin 74-68 in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
The Badgers (30-6) became the highest-seeded team to lose in the tournament.
Kruger was shooting just 1-of-15 in the NCAAs - including 1-of-7 Sunday - when he found the range. He tied it with a 3, then hit another to give the Runnin' Rebels the lead with just under six minutes left.
Seventh-seeded UNLV (30-6) led by 12 at the half, but Wisconsin rallied with 11 straight points. A 16-2 run gave the Badgers a five-point lead to the delight of their red-clad fans at the United Center.
But Kruger, who transferred from Arizona State to play his final season for his dad Lon, delivered. After his three 3-pointers, he was fouled on another long-range attempt and made all three free throws to make it 64-56 with a little more than three minutes left.
Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor sank a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play with 59 seconds to go to get the Badgers to 70-67.
Curtis Terry, who earlier made a 3-pointer, had a free throw and a little jumper in the lane to give the Runnin' Rebels a five-point cushion with 29 seconds to go.
UNLV's first-round victory over Georgia Tech was its first in the NCAA tournament since the 1991 team went to the Final Four behind Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon and towel-chewing coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Wisconsin fell into an 18-point hole in the first round Friday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before Taylor led them back in the second for a 76-63 victory.
This time the Badgers couldn't come all the way back.
Wendell White, playing with sore ribs, led UNLV with 22 points. Kruger finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Taylor paced the Badgers with 24, 19 in the second half.
Alando Tucker, the Big Ten player of the year and leading scorer in Wisconsin history, added 17 for the Badgers, who were ranked No. 1 late in the regular season.
Wisconsin, which lost on the same floor a week ago in the Big Ten finals against Ohio State, was playing its fifth game at the United Center in 10 days.
Kruger, 0-for-8 in a first-round win over Georgia Tech, missed his first three Sunday. But when he finally made one it turned into the biggest play of a 10-0 first-half spurt that opened up a 29-16 lead. Kruger was fouled on the play by Badgers freshman Jason Bohannon and made the free throw to finish off a four-point play.
With an aggressive defense and six 3-pointers the Runnin' Rebels ran out to a 39-27 halftime lead.
The Badgers finally got untracked when Taylor hit a shot and two free throws before Tucker's 3-pointer got Wisconsin within 46-44 with 12:38 left.
When UNLV's Wink Adams went high for a follow-up and fell hard to the floor, he was forced out of the game momentarily. After Terry stepped in at the line for Adams and missed both free throws, Wisconsin got a tying basket by Bohannon and then took its first lead since early in the game at 48-46 on Taylor's two free throws.
Bohannon shook loose for a layup before Greg Stiemsma made a left-handed basket in the lane, was fouled and converted a three-point play as Wisconsin went up by five.
But moments later Kruger made just his second basket of the tournament, a tying 3-pointer with 7:32 to play. Kruger wasn't finished, he made two more 3s and UNLV went up by five with about five minutes to go.