UNLV plays up to No.1 ranking

The top-ranked UNLV basketball team pounded Nevada-Reno 115-83 Wednesday night in the Thomas and Mack Center.

There's not much else to say, so are there any questions?

"Yeah, how did they do it?"

Every way possible. Tough pressure defense. A fastbreak run to perfection. A nasty trapping press after converted buckets. A balanced scoring attack. Superb play from the bench.

"Hmm. They finally put it all together, huh?"

Exactly.

The fourth-largest crowd ever in the Thomas and Mack Center (18,300) watched UNLV dismantle its state foe from the north with an explosion that saw the home team score 66 points and shoot 65 percent from the field in the second half.

For the first 12 minutes following intermission, the Rebels played like they haven't played all year - at least not for that long a period.

UNLV turned a 49-43 halftime lead into a 75-48 mismatch with a 26-5 spurt in the first 6:55 of the second half.

"Like I was saying," said point guard Mark Wade, "if we play our game, we can't be beat. I couldn't believe the run we made in the second half. That's the best 12 minutes of basketball I've ever seen. We played like the Runnin' Rebels."

"They wore us down and steamrolled us," Wolf Pack head coach Sonny Allen said.

The victory lifts UNLV's record to 7-0, while the Wolf Pack falls to 4-4.

"For those 12 minutes, I thought we were really a great team," Rebels head coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "I thought our defense smothered them tonight. That was the key."

UNLV forced UNR into 30 turnovers and collected 18 steals in the process, led by Wade with five and Freddie Banks with four.

"Wasn't that something'?" Tarkanian said repeatedly of his defense. "The things we did tonight are the things we practiced to do all last week but weren't able to do in Reno (a 99-88 victory last Saturday). I wish someone would explain to me why that is.”

Senior backup guard Gary Graham came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points and pull down a career-high (and team-high) nine rebounds in a measly 23 minutes.

"I feel so good because I know my momma was watching the game back home (in Baltimore)," Graham said. "Not matter how late it was, she said she was gonna watch it. But I plan on doing even better in the future. Not to be cocky or anything, I just feel like I have so much more to offer."

Wade played 25 minutes, but still managed to dish out a career-high 16 assists - four short of Danny Tarkanian's school record.

It was the Rebels' largest margin of victory since they beat Pacific 95-52 three seasons ago. The most points UNLV has ever scored in the Thomas and Mack center was 117 against Pacific in 1983-84.

Every Rebels team member played and scored and no starter played more than 26 minutes.

"It's nice that everyone scored," Tarkanian said. "We were trying to get Leon (Symanski) the ball toward the end."

Banks' jump shot appears to have returned. The 6-2 senior, who entered the game shooting 37.7 percent, shot 8 of 13 from the floor and 4 of 6 from three-point range to finish with 20 points.

"The flu is gone and Freddie's back," Banks said afterward. "I feel real good right now."

Junior college transfer Gerald Paddio continued to sparkle, scoring 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting while taking three charges on defense.

"I think we all did a good job on defense tonight," Paddio said. "The only aspect we didn’t really cover was the boards."

The Rebels were outrebounded, 41-39 but ended up shooting better than 50 percent (56) for the second straight contest.

UNLV's biggest lead came at 107-67 with 3:17 left in the ballgame.

The Rebels will host the UNLV/Miller Lite Rebel Roundup Friday and Saturday at the Thomas and Mack Center.

UNLV will play Ohio University at 9 p.m. The opening contest will pit Duquesne against Louisiana Tech at 6:30 p.m.

The first-round winners will meet in the championship game at 9 p.m. Saturday. The consolation game will be at 6:30 p.m.

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