Seniors go out with a bang

Seniors go out with a bang

A t-shirt clad crowd of 18,069 filled the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night to salute UNLV's five seniors on "White Out" Night., But for visiting Colorado State, it was more of a Black Out Night, especially on offense.

The Runnin' Rebel defense was once again stifling, holding the Rams to just 19 first half points, blocking 16 shots and forcing 22 turnovers en route to an easy 65-47 victory.

Afterward, the seniors – point guard Kevin Kruger, guard Michael Umeh, forwards Wendell White and Gaston Essengue and center Joel Anthony --- made it a point to go into the student section to exchange hugs and high-fives with their peers who helped form UNLV's largest home crowd since Feb. 20, 1993 against New Mexico State.

The senior Rebels will play at least one more time on their home floor when they face Utah in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament on Thursday night at 6 p.m. But this was the team's last official home game.

What a way to go out, especially for Kruger, who finished with a game-high 16 points and nine assists, including a trio of dazzling no-look passes at the end of fast breaks. And also for the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Anthony, who had 10 points, eight blocks and seven rebounds in just 22 minutes of action.

"It was an amazing crowd tonight," Anthony, a strong candidate for conference defensive player of the year, said. "Everyone was wearing white, and the type of support that they were giving us, I honestly couldn't ask for anything more.

"It definitely feels good to go out like that with a good win … Our team played well, especially defensively."

Colorado State, which was without starting guard Tyler Smith (flu), made just 19 field goals in 55 attempts (34.5 percent). And 7-foot junior forward Jason Smith, a future NBA first round pick, was the only Ram to score in double figures. He finished with 12 points (5 of 13 from the floor) and 15 rebounds.

"Defensively, that's what we try to do every night we come out," Kevin Kruger said. "Offensively, we didn't do much but we played the same style of defense we pretty much have played all year long."

Kruger, like the rest of the seniors, received a standing ovation from the large crowd as he exited the game. He also hugged his dad, UNLV head coach Lon Kruger, on the way to the bench.

"It was (special)," Kevin Kruger said. "Coming off the court for the last time, he was there. That's something that wouldn't have happened if I was (still) at Arizona State. He was there to greet me and kind of put an end to everfything."

Kevin Kruger, who for the second straight game came up just an assist shy of a double-double, credit the noisy crowd with helping to rattle Colorado State.

"You know that Colorado State thought about it," he said. "They heard it … 18,000 is an unbelievable number."

Anthony, who now has 94 blocks this season, said it is important for the Runnin' Rebels (25-6) to turn their focus on the Mountain West Conference Tournament opener with Utah now. The Rebels are the No. 2 seed in the tourney behind conference champ BYU.

"Everything is even more important now because one loss and it could be over for you," Anthony said. "We just have to come back really focused for practice the next couple of days and make sure we do the things we have to do to prepare and get ready for Utah."

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