For Bob Knight, record-setting victory No. 880 will have to wait until at least New Year's Day.
Knight's Texas Tech team fell behind UNLV early and never recovered, losing 74-66 Thursday night to leave him tied with Dean Smith atop the men's Division I win list.
The Red Raiders trailed by 19 almost midway through the second half and the frustration might have gotten to Knight because he got his first technical of the season with 3:54 left. However, Tech was starting to rally then and kept it up, getting to 68-62 with 1:38 left. UNLV protected its lead by making six straight foul shots.
Knight's next chance to own the record by himself comes Monday at home against New Mexico. History is on his side because he has never needed more than two tries to hit milestones such as 300, 400, 600, 700 and 800.
His first shot at this milestone drew a crowd of 15,098, one of the largest in school history, and included Knight pals Steve Alford, John Havlicek, Jerry Tarkanian and Fuzzy Zoeller. The usually staid fans were into it from the start, giving Knight a standing ovation when he emerged before the game, with some chanting "Bob-by!"
Three students painted their bodies red and spelled out 8-8-0 in black on their chests. Another fan summed up Knight's mood toward the inevitable accomplishment with a sign that read, "Let's get this over with," quotes and all.
But Knight's motion offense and man-to-man defense both let him down.
Tech (10-4) came in as the nation's most-accurate 3-point shooting team, but made only one of 12. UNLV (12-2) was 11-of-25 from behind the arc.
Led by former NBA coach Lon Kruger, who improved to 8-2 against Knight, the Runnin' Rebels obviously didn't want to be first-hand witnesses to history. Every big basket or exciting play was punctuated by guys jumping up off the bench, high-fiving and spinning around, as if this was an NCAA tournament game.
They went on a 13-2 run in the first half and led by 10 before Tech got to 32-23 at halftime. The Red Raiders trailed 53-34 with 13:16 left and UNLV was so in control that the crowd went bonkers when the Red Raiders scored four straight points.
Things perked up again when a layup by Jay Jackson made it 66-55. Knight apparently wanted a foul called on Jackson's basket and took his complaint several steps onto the floor, drawing the technical. The rally continued, but not far enough for Knight and his fans.
The Rebels, who won their eighth straight, were making only a third of their 3s coming in and were 4-of-18 in their last game, but their game plan was based around the long ball. Five of their first seven baskets were 3s and they didn't even go to the foul line until there was 8:13 left in the game.
By then, several hundred fans already had made their way to the exits.
Many could be back Monday thanks to a Project 880, a ticket-selling gimmick aimed at filling parts of the arena that usually go unsold, especially while school is out for winter break. That's one of the few things that bothers Knight about Tech, where he's in his sixth season after being fired by Indiana following three national championships in 29 years.
Alford, who won one of those titles playing for Knight with the Hoosiers and now coaches Iowa, said he's hoping to make it back.
"He told me in the locker room, 'Now, if I don't win tonight, you going to come back on the 1st?"' Alford said. "We don't play on the 1st, so I'll do my best."
Instead of his 880th win, Knight took his 354th loss in 41 seasons. Tech had won four straight games and six of seven.
Martin Zeno led Tech with 22 points and Jackson, who was 1-of-6 on 3s, scored 20.
Kevin Kruger led UNLV with 21 points. Wendell White and Curtis Terry each scored 12.