College Basketball Nation: Isacc Miles

Previewing UNLV-Va Tech in 76 Classic final

November, 27, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Murray State guard Isacc Miles only needed a couple sentences during a postgame news conference to sum up why UNLV will be difficult to beat when the Rebels face Virginia Tech for the 76 Classic championship on Sunday (9 ET, ESPN2).

"They made all the shots they needed to make, and they didn't hurt themselves," Miles said after the Runnin' Rebels beat his team by 14 in the semis. "When they do that and shoot 60 percent, it's pretty hard to win."

Not only is 5-0 UNLV getting scoring production from junior forward Chace Stanback (17.2 ppg), but its swarming defense is also looking good behind the efforts of Stanback and guards Derrick Jasper and Anthony Marshall.

The Rebels, who have already beaten a ranked Wisconsin team, are doing all this without big numbers from returning leading scorer Tre'Von Willis. Willis continues to come off the bench while playing his way back into game shape following a four-game suspension.

"We know Tre is going to return in full form in time," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said.

Kruger is also well-aware that Virginia Tech presents challenges after the Hokies successfully got other teams to play their style, which is, as coach Seth Greenberg lovingly calls it, "ugly."

Virginia Tech squeezed out a win against Oklahoma State in the semis despite shooting 34.7 percent from the field, so Malcolm Delaney and Co. are accustomed to grinding out wins when the shots don't fall.

It helps the Hokies' backcourt if they get guard Erick Green back for the game after he exited the first-round game against Cal State Northridge with a calf injury.

But Delaney is more than capable of generating offense by himself, and with forward Jeff Allen also having a fine tournament, it'll be an intriguing matchup against a stingy defense.

A championship game win would mean an early boost for UNLV before the Mountain West Conference season. For Virginia Tech, anything that helps get it over the hump and into the NCAA tournament is seen as crucial.

Beating a red-hot Rebels team would qualify.

'Miracle' shot lifts Murray State

March, 18, 2010
Murray State RacersKyle Terada/US PresswireNo. 13-seeded Murray State celebrates a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas smiled widely and said he was simply "Option No. 3" on the play.

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy, who had scribbled something out with 4.2 seconds left in a tight first-round game with Vanderbilt, had a more colorful way to describe what transpired at the buzzer.

"That was a blessing," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said. "It's not a shot we've run or one we've worked on.

"It's a miracle."

The 6-foot-4 senior from New Orleans caught a pass from Isacc Miles, took one dribble, and fired at the horn to sink No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt 66-65.

Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy buried his head in his jersey and collapsed on the floor.

Murray State guard B.J. Jenkins did a flying fist pump.

And Thomas leaped in the air before striding down the other end of the court relatively calmly as if to get back on defense. Teammates tackled him onto the floor and then piled on top.

"I thought I was going to get smothered," Thomas mused. "I was trying to find a hole to breathe."

After hitting the big shot, he passed on the credit. Miles was the guy who gave up the ball. Kennedy was the one who drew up a play the team hadn't run before that ended up working.

"If I wouldn't have made it, one of them would have made it," Thomas said of his teammates.

The Racers have banded together to win 31 games and their first NCAA tournament game since 1988 -- when Thomas was two years old.

They had won the Ohio Valley Conference by two games, dealt with the death of the mother of guard Picasso Simmons the day before leaving for California, and then took down an SEC team in Vanderbilt that had finished second to Kentucky.

The rest of the nation found out they also play good basketball in that state in Murray. Vanderbilt, only about a two-hour drive from there, knew all about the Racers, and the Commodores still got their hearts broken.

"It goes down the drain with one kid making the shot," Ogilvy said in an otherwise silent locker room.

It's the No. 13-seeded Racers who will continue dancing after the shot heard from Murray to Northern California dropped through.

"It was big-time," Thomas said. "It's tournament time."

Murray State wins it at the buzzer

March, 18, 2010
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas hit a jumper at the buzzer to lift No. 13-seeded Murray State to a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt.

The Racers ran off to the other end of the court, where they piled onto the senior forward after he had took a dribble, stepped back and knocked down the shot.

Murray State earned its 31st victory of the season in a win that was only an upset on paper for the Ohio Valley champions who are now winners of 22 of their last 23 games.

Isacc Miles scored 17 points to lead Murray State, who were nearly finished when B.J. Jenkins saw his 3-pointer come up short off the rim with 4.2 seconds, but the Racers got the ball back.

Vanderbilt has now lost consecutive NCAA tournament games to No. 13 seeds. The Commodores were led by Brad Tinsley's 13 points, but were hampered by finishing only 17-of-29 from the free throw line.