March 12, 2004
By JOHN MOSSMAN
AP Sports Writer
DENVER - Romel Beck scored 23 points, including a basket with 21 seconds left, and UNLV outlasted New Mexico 55-53 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament.
UNLV, the No. 4 seed, will meet Colorado State in Friday's semifinals. Colorado State, the No. 8 seed, knocked off Air Force, the top seed, 60-48.
Demetrius Hunter added nine points for UNLV (17-11), hitting three critical 3-pointers in the second half.
Danny Granger had 14 points and eight rebounds for New Mexico (14-14), the No. 5 seed.
UNLV, which overcame a 15-point first-half deficit, got a 3-pointer from Beck and back-to-back 3-pointers from Hunter to cut the deficit to 45-43. Odartey Blankson made two free throws to make it 45-45 with 6:27 remaining.
A minute later, Blankson hit two more free throws to put the Rebels ahead 48-47.
New Mexico's Alfred Neale hit a basket and Granger made two free throws to put the Lobos ahead 51-48, but Hunter hit another 3-pointer with 2:54 left.
Mark Walters sank two free throws for New Mexico, but Beck made a driving reverse slam dunk for a 53-53 tie with 1:23 left.
Beck then made an alley-oop basket on a pass from Jerel Blassingame with 21 seconds left.
After a New Mexico turnover, Blankson missed a free throw and New Mexico had possession with 1.7 seconds left, but James Peters tipped New Mexico's long inbounds pass.
New Mexico jumped out to a 19-4 lead 11 minutes into the game, but UNLV rallied and cut the deficit to 30-24 at halftime.
The Lobos opened their big lead with a 12-0 run, started by Javin Tindall's four-point play when he hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw. Neale had six points during the flurry.
To that point, UNLV had made just 2-of-12 shots and committed five turnovers.
Beck, who had 12 points in the half, made a 3-pointer to end UNLV's five-minute scoring drought and ignite an 18-7 surge.
Blankson hit a 3-pointer and Beck added another, and Louis Amundson had a three-point play as the Rebels trimmed the deficit to 26-22 with 2:10 left in the half.