FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- No. 1-ranked UNLV won the Game of the Year with the half of its dreams, shooting 62.2 percent in the second half to defeat No. 2 Arkansas, 112-105, at Barnhill Arena yesterday.
And those who wondered how the top-ranked Runnin' Rebels will react to a close game still are wondering.
9- With six minutes left, UNLV led the Razor
backs, 98-75 -- and Arkansas had led, 50-46, at halftime. The Rebels (20-0) vaporized that lead in less than a minute, scored on their first eight trips downcourt, paused for oxygen, and knocked out Arkansas (23-2) with a 23-10 run for their 31st straight victory. That ended Arkansas' 20-game winning streak and 19-game home streak.
There was much efficiency, if not variety. Sixteen of UNLV's 19 baskets in that stretch came on fast breaks. In UNLV's first 31 second-half possessions, it scored 50 points.
Stacey Augmon led the layup parade with 31 points. Larry Johnson added 25 with 14 rebounds, and Anderson Hunt 26.
"They were snowing," said Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson, referring to the practice of releasing defenders when a shot went up. "We thought Stacey would be going to the boards, but he was one of the ones who was snowing. You take a chance when you release like that because we're likely to stick it back in on you if we go to the boards. But we're not a phenomenal rebounding team."
Arkansas out-rebounded UNLV, 41-38, but much of that margin came near the end, when the thinner Rebels tired. Johnson and George Ackles (nine rebounds) ruled the defensive board and, thus, controlled the game.
A 40-minute performance by point guard Greg Anthony also helped. Anthony had 10 assists and four steals and helped frustrate Lee Mayberry into 4-for-15 shooting. Together, Mayberry and Todd Day went 12-for-36 and
committed 14 turnovers.
"That's the ballgame right there," Richardson said.
At the buzzer, Anthony trotted off the floor, found that the dressing room was locked, and sat down on the floor outside. A long time passed before he felt like getting up.
"I didn't know when we were going to get our legs for this game," Anthony said. "But a lot of it is mental. Getting up for these games is easy. A lot of people said we'd have trouble because we hadn't played anybody, but the tough part is getting keyed up to play some of the Big West teams that are emotionally up for us. I didn't worry about our state of mind for
Can the Rebels become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish the season unbeaten?
"We don't think about that, seriously," Tarkanian said. "We have not talked about that all year and we will not talk about it now."
Arkansas, the state, had long since lost its mind over this day. The tent city outside Barnhill, the altered church services, and the outrageous offers for tickets all shocked UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian.
"I was taking a walk down a side road yesterday and three cars stopped," he said. "People got out and took pictures. I haven't seen a game get one-tenth the newspaper space that this one did."
And for 20 minutes, it seemed Arkansas might bring home the bacon. The halftime lead was built on 4-for-4 shooting by center Oliver Miller and a superior bench.
Anthony walked into the locker room and urged the Rebels, "Play like we're 10 down." Tarkanian told Ackles to quit fronting Miller when the Big O roamed outside. On the other side, Richardson decided on a matchup zone to make sure Miller didn't draw his third foul.
"The atmosphere was quiet and confident. The coaches went over the things we didn't do well in the first half, and we just came and played hard and played like UNLV," Augmon said.
Ackles scored, Anthony fed Johnson, Anthony's steal set up two foul shots, and Anthony blocked Lee Mayberry's shot and turned it into a layup. Richardson used all his timeouts in the first seven minutes. Some teams enjoy spurts. UNLV has tidal waves.
"If I knew why we played like that, in the beginning of the second half, I'd quit coaching and become a psychic," Richardson said.
With Arkansas closing to within 104-91, Day missed a three-pointer and wound up on Johnson's back. Johnson threw Day off, Day took a swing, eventually hit referee Jody Sylvester unintentionally, and both Johnson and Day were ejected.
Unfortunately for Arkansas, other Rebels remained. "What they need to do," Miller said, "is go to the NBA."