OMAHA, Neb. — UNLV senior Curtis Terry knew where to turn for extra motivation while he prepared for the NCAA Tournament. He just flipped on the TV.
Terry said he was paying attention as several experts picked Kent State to beat the Rebels in the Midwest Regional’s first round.
“We watch ESPN pretty much all day, especially in the hotel where there’s only 15 channels and the movies are $13,” Terry said Thursday, after UNLV’s 71-58 victory over the Golden Flashes at the Qwest Center. “We’ve seen guys with their analysis and breakdowns, and they were picking Kent State.
“But it’s nothing new to us. People always pick against us and don’t think we have a chance.”
Las Vegas oddsmakers also doubted the Rebels, who are seeded No. 8 but were 2-point underdogs to ninth-seeded Kent State
On Sunday night, ESPN analyst and former Duke player Jay Bilas started the prediction parade by saying the Golden Flashes would beat UNLV.
Before Thursday’s game, CBS analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis also backed Kent State to win.
“I actually didn’t see that. It’s probably a good thing I was asleep,” Rebels junior Rene Rougeau said. “We try not to watch that too much.”
It was Kellogg who, before last Saturday’s Mountain West Conference Tournament championship, said UNLV did not deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament field.
The Rebels advanced to play top-seeded Kansas in Saturday’s second round. The Jayhawks opened as 121/2-point favorites.
“Going into the Kansas game, I’m sure no one will think we’ll win that game, either,” Rougeau said. “We like being the underdog because we’ve been the underdog all year.”
• L.J. HITS OMAHA — Larry Johnson, arguably the greatest player in UNLV history, sat in the second row behind the Rebels’ bench Thursday.
Johnson, a star of the Rebels’ 1990 national championship team, spent most of the game signing autographs and posing for pictures. He even signed for several young Kansas fans who approached him.
• ‘GONDO’ NOT ON RADIO — For the second time this season, UNLV radio play-by-play voice Jon Sandler went solo.
Color analyst and former Rebels player Glen Gondrezick is awaiting a heart transplant whenever a viable one becomes available.
“It certainly wasn’t the same without him,” Sandler said. “Gondo has been a part of UNLV basketball long before I was around and will always be part of it. I know it was very difficult for him not being here in Omaha.
“He would have loved watching the way the Rebels played defense today.”
Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney contributed to this report.