The Shark attack is back with a vengeance.
Larry Johnson started a UNLV feeding frenzy in the second half Saturday that gobbled up Seton Hall, led to a 77-65 victory and put the defending champion Runnin' Rebels back in the Final Four.Johnson, who finished with 30 points, pumped in 3-pointers to open and close UNLV's 14-0 surge after halftime, which turned a three-point lead into a 53-36 runaway.
Coach Jerry Tarkanian worried about his players' intensity before this game, but Tark the Shark enjoyed this show against Seton Hall. The Rebels looked as good as they have all season as they ran their winning streak to 45 and boosted their season record to 34-0.
UNLV stripped the Pirates nearly naked in the second half, stealing the ball nine times for a total of 14 in the game, and stopped Seton Hall's top scorers cold.
Terry Dehere, Seton Hall's biggest scoring threat, managed only three points in the second half for a total of 15.
Much more than sweet revenge against a Seton Hall team that routed the Rebels in the 1989 West Regionals, the victory put UNLV within two wins of a special niche in basketball history.
The Rebels are seeking to become the first team since UCLA in 1973 to capture consecutive NCAA basketball championships and the first since Indiana in 1976 to win the title undefeated.
Seton Hall (25-9) took an early 8-2 lead with an 8-0 run, capped by freshman Arturas Karnishovas' 3-pointer from the top of the key.
But UNLV woke up quickly, breaking up Seton Hall's offense with steals and sprinting to easy layups and dunks in a 14-4 run that put the Rebels ahead 1612. Johnson scored six of his 12 first-half points during that stretch, all from the inside.
Seton Hall, unable to whip the ball inside, took to the outside and tied the game at 24-24 on another 3-pointer by Karnishovas.
Stacey Augmon answered that with a 3-pointer and the Rebels made it 30-24 with the help of another steal. Each time the Rebels threatened to break open the game, though, the Pirates found a way to hang in.
Trailing by its largest deficit of the first half, 37-30, Seton Hall scored six points in a row on free throws as UNLV's floor leader, Greg Anthony, picked his second and third fouls and sat down with 2:38 left in the half. An offensive rebound and layup by reserve Evric Gray put UNLV ahead 39-36 at halftime.
Seton Hall shot only 35 percent from the field in the first half, but hit 9 of 10 free throws. UNLV hit 49 percent from the field, but 2 of 4 free throws. Seton Hall outrebounded UNLV 22-17 in the half.
In next Saturday's national semifinals, UNLV will play the winner of the Duke-St. John's game.
After the 14-0 run in the second half, which gave UNLV 16 points in a row with Gray's basket ending the first half, Seton Hall never again threatened. After a layup by Gordon Winchester stopped the streak, Anderson Hunt hit a 3-pointer to make it 56-38.
Nothing the Pirates did worked. They tried to slow the ball, but had it stolen. They tried to steal the ball back, but were left flat-footed. The Pirates turned the ball over 18 times - twice as many as UNLV - and shot only 40 percent for the game. UNLV hit 49 percent.
Augmon and Hunt each had 13 points for UNLV. Anthony scored six points but had 11 assists and five steals.
Johnson, who also had six rebounds and three steals, dominated even more than he had in the previous three playoff games. The 6-foot-7, 250-pounder used his muscle inside to push away the younger, thinner Pirates, then went outside and shot with ease, hitting 13 of 19 field-goal attempts overall.
Johnson, named the most outstanding player in the West Regional, joined Augmon and Anthony on the all-regional team. Dehere and Arizona's Brian Williams also were named to the team.