Men's Basketball

[25th Anniversary of a Championship]

Six shining moments: The Rebels’ path to immortality, game by glorious game

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      UNLV 102, Arkansas-Little Rock 72

      (March 15, Salt Lake City)

      The 29-5 Rebels rolled into the NCAA Tournament having won 15 of their previous 16 games, and put their opponent away quickly in this West Regional opener, building a 19-point halftime lead. Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, David Butler and Anderson Hunt all scored in double figures before UNLV’s starters exited with 12 minutes remaining, and the Rebels’ seldom-seen bench took over from there, contributing 48 points, led by James Jones (13), Barry Young (12) and Travis Bice (12). “It’s obvious why we were the 16th seed and they are the first seed,” Little Rock coach Mike Newell said afterward.

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      UNLV 76, Ohio State 65

      (March 17, Salt Lake City)

      The Rebels never quite ran away from the eighth-seeded Buckeyes (featuring future NBAer Jim Jackson, then a freshman) in round two, but UNLV used a 14-1 second-half run and a late Greg Anthony 3-pointer to survive and advance. With heavyweight champ Buster Douglas watching courtside, the Rebels struggled early and led by just two at the half, but the team’s famed “amoeba” zone defense held Ohio State without a field goal for nearly nine minutes after the break, and Anthony—who’d aggravated his fractured-and-wired jaw the day before in practice—hit UNLV’s lone three with 1:23 remaining to ice the game.

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      UNLV 69, Ball State 67

      (March 23, Oakland)

      It’s weird to imagine UNLV not winning the ’90 championship, but a 12-seed from Muncie, Indiana, very nearly sent the Rebels packing in the Sweet 16. Swirl together a severe rebounding deficit (51-36), some serious Anderson Hunt foul trouble and terrible team foul shooting down the stretch, and this one had all the makings of an upset for the ages. Down two points with 18 seconds left, the Cardinals owned the ball, but Paris McCurdy slipped with time running down. Though he managed to shovel the ball to teammate Mike Spicer, UNLV’s Butler easily intercepted the latter’s lob at the rim, preserving Rebel glory by a surprisingly slim margin.

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      UNLV 131, Loyola Marymount 101

      (March 25, Oakland)

      The Lions had captured the hearts of basketball fans across the nation following the on-court death of star player Hank Gathers earlier in the month, making this the most anticipated matchup of the tournament. Gathers’ teammate Bo Kimble wound up with a game-high 42 points (remember his left-handed free throws in tribute to his childhood friend?), but Loyola’s up-tempo system played into the Rebels’ hands, and the outcome was never in doubt. Augmon scored 25 points before halftime, 13 of them during a 24-8 run that put UNLV ahead by 20 points at the break. The Lions never got closer than 13 after that, with Augmon (33 points, 11 rebounds), Hunt (30 points, 13 assists), Anthony (21 points, eight assists) and Johnson (20 points, 18 rebounds) running roughshod over their emotionally spent foes.

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      UNLV 90, Georgia Tech 81

      (March 31, Denver)

      A mini-scare for the Rebels, who came up against “Lethal Weapon 3,” the vaunted Yellow Jackets trio of Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver, in the Final Four. Tech became the lone team to go up five points or more on UNLV in the entire tourney, posting a 53-46 halftime lead, but Augmon spearheaded a stifling defensive effort from there (“We are seeing one of the great defensive stands by an individual player!” commentator Billy Packer proclaimed), and the Rebels overcame the foul-out of star forward Johnson with just under seven minutes to play. All five UNLV starters scored in double figures in a methodical, balanced effort (led by Augmon’s 22), and the banshee-shouting duo of Butler and Moses Scurry combined for 21 rebounds. CBS’ cameras captured Duke students chanting “We want you!” at the UNLV student section as time ran down on the Rebels’ win. Be very careful what you wish for, Dukies.

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      UNLV 103, Duke 73

      (April 2, Denver)

      Reeeeeebels, Reeeeeebels. The chant began early, as UNLV, which received a surprise pre-game pep talk from NFL great Walter Payton, scored first and never trailed in a blowout win over the Blue Devils. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski—still in search of his first title—and future NBA players Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Alaa Abdelnaby had no answers for the Rebels’ attack, especially coach Jerry Tarkanian’s smothering man-to-man defense, which keyed an 18-0 run that saw the fastbreaking Rebels turn a 12-point game at halftime into a 75-47 laugher. Hunt racked up 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting to claim tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, Johnson notched 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Anthony and Augmon added 13 and 12 points, respectively, as UNLV set records for total tournament points, points in a championship and championship margin of victory. As the clock ran down, Rebel players pulled “Shark Takes His Bite: 1990 National Champions” T-shirts over their heads and started the celebration. It was, simply put, sweetness.

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      Rebel stat attack!

      131 Record for most points scored in a single NCAA Tournament game.

      103 Record for most points scored in an NCAA championship game.

      30 Record for largest margin of victory in an NCAA championship game.

      3 Tournament games in which UNLV outscored its opponent by exactly 30 points.

      571 Record for most total points scored by a single team in an NCAA Tournament.

      3 Starters on UNLV’s title team drafted among 1991’s top 12 NBA picks.

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    Spencer Patterson

    Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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