TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was only 10 minutes after top-seeded Nevada-Las Vegas had claimed Montana as its 42nd straight victim, 99-65, that someone was trying to build a case for the Georgetown Hoyas as possible giant-killers in this afternoon's West Regional second-round matchup at the University of Arizona's McKale Center.
UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, aiming for a second straight titl before facing NCAA sanctions next season, was reminded that he has yet to beat the Hoyas and coach John Thompson in five encounters.
Tarkanian, while viewing the Hoyas and their twin towers o Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning as a legitimate test for his Runnin' Rebels, placed little credence in history.
"The first time we played Georgetown in 1981, we lost on a fre throw in the final seconds," Tarkanian said. "The next four times we played them, they had a center named Patrick Ewing. I've a lot of respect for Mourning and Mutombo, but neither one is a Patrick Ewing."
Both Tarkanian and Thompson agree that the balance of power
has shifted significantly in favor of UNLV, which hardly has had a scare this season in compiling a 31-0 mark.
"The thing that impresses me most about Las Vegas is their
cohesiveness," Thompson said. "Usually when you have seniors with lofty basketball aspirations, like Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, it works against team unity. But this Las Vegas team is extremely unselfish.
"I can't see any noticeable weakness. But I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him," Thompson said, laughing.
He is well-acquainted with both Augmon and Anthony. Augmowas a member of his 1988 Olympic basketball team while Anthony has spent his summers in Washington competing against most of the Hoyas in pickup games at Georgetown.
"Stacey is a special person," said Thompson of the ganglall-purpose forward who, like Johnson, is projected as an NBA lottery pick this June. "In fact, I once called him out of the stands and introduced him to my kids. I said, 'I want you to meet the guy I'm always talking about.'
"Stacey is so darn competitive. If things go bad, he can take game over by himself with his defensive capabilities. His work ethic is unbelievable, and so is his sense of urgency when something has to be done."
Anthony, the Rebels' floor leader who is vice chairman of th young Republicans of Nevada and operates a real estate company, said he spent considerable time this past summer in Thompson's office just talking about life.
The NCAA imposed restrictions on Anthony's extracurricula business dealings, a decision that baffled Thompson.
"Any time a person is ambitious enough to advance himself, hshould serve as a role model, not be punished," Thompson said. "I'd see him on our campus playing ball, then leaving with a suit and briefcase."
All the negative publicity and constant scrutiny by the NCAA ha pulled the Rebels closer together.
"This is a team that has probably played with a greater degree o intensity than any team I've had," said Tarkanian. "It is totally unselfish. The players have an extreme sense of loyalty to the team, university and coaches, and they have a great work ethic. I don't see any Lew Alcindors, Bill Waltons or Bill Russells on our roster, but I see a team that has wonderful chemistry."
Still, Tarkanian made a point of showing concern for the Hoyaswho, only a few weeks ago, were sitting on the bubble in earning one of the 64 NCAA tournament berths.
"I can't argue with Georgetown being seeded eighth," he said "They had a very inconsistent season. But, at their best, I believe they can beat anybody. I saw them whip Connecticut and thoroughly destroy Duke, which I considered the team to beat after us.
"With Mutombo and Mourning, they probably have the best
combination of shot-blockers in history," Tarkanian said. "Their game is very basic, getting the ball down low to their big guys. But we may still stick to pressuring their freshman guards. Our aggressive defense is what really makes our offense go. There are teams bigger than us, and just as quick, but one thing we're capable of doing is defending people."
NOTES: If starting C George Ackles (sprained ankle) is less tha 100 percent today, Tarkanian will start Elmore Spencer and give Ackles limited action. "Our one weakness is that we usually play only six men," Tarkanian said. "But sometimes that works to our advantage. Starters like Anderson Hunt aren't looking over their shoulder if they miss a few shots. They know they'll stay in there."