Rebels hammer UC Irvine in PCAA opener, 114-72

Maybe sympathy cards should be mailed to nine of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association basketball teams.

The return address would be Las Vegas, Nev., and the note would begin something like this: "It is with deep sympathy and remorse that we start another season..."

Judging from what happened in the Thomas and Mack Center Saturday night, once again it appears the battle will be for second place in the PCAA.

In the league opener for both schools, top-ranked UNLV slapped UC Irvine silly with a 114-72 pounding in front of an overflow crowd of 19,058.

Refer to this one as "Showtime at the Mack."

Freddie Banks pumped in five three pointers and finished with 19 points.

Not to be outdone, Gerald Paddio drilled in five bombs in five attempts to finish with 17 points. The junior college transfer also handed out seven assists and had six rebounds.

Backup guard Gary Graham tied for game-high honors with 20 points in 22 minutes.

Armon Gilliam paced the team in scoring (20), rebounding (nine) and steals (four) and quite frankly looked bored doing so.

Reserve forward Lawrence West got an opportunity to show what he could do since his well-publicized suspension. He scored 11 points in 12 minutes and quite frankly had a great time doing so.

Mark Wade scored seven first-half points, handed out his expected 12 assists and sat on the bench for 15 minutes.

Reserve Eldridge Hudson even did a version of Irving Fryar's NFL touchdown dance after slamming home a follow shot during garbage time.

"I figured if he can do it on the football field someone ought to start a trend on the basketball court," said Hudson, who also drew a technical for hanging on the rim. "But you can only do it after a dunk. It's called the 'El Hud Shuffle."

OK. OK. It's only one game and the toughest PCAA teams will likely be 19th ranked Cal State Fullerton along with San Jose State.

But in case it was not forgotten - and it certainly was not - Irvine is the last team to beat the Rebels at the Thomas and Mack.

"If that's not on your mind, you're not human," Wade said of Irvine's 99-92 victory, Feb. 15 1986.

"After the first two timeouts, I had nothing left to say," said Anteaters head coach Bill Mulligan, who endured the second-worst defeat in his seven season at Irvine. "The players were awful. I was awful and even the assistant coaches didn't do anything right."

The Rebels' biggest lead was 48 points at 113-65 with 52 seconds left.

They outshot Irvine 52.3 percent to 30 percent. They outrebounded Irvine 64-48. They collected 15 steals to Irvine's three.

"Our guys acted like they were scared and then the roof caved in," Mulligan said.

The triumph lifts the Rebels' season mark to 12-0 and their record in the Thomas and Mack Center to 53-2 (the only other loss coming in overtime to Georgetown three seasons ago).

Irvine evens off at 5-4.

"The key was taking away their transition game," UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "We didn't do anything tricky, it just worked."

The Rebels' biggest lead in the first half was 62-34 with 1:47 remaining before intermission.

The advantage came thanks to a barrage of three-pointers from Banks (four), Paddio (two) and Graham (two).

Despite the attempts from long range, UNLV still shot 75 percent from behind the 19-foot, 9-inch half circle and 60 percent from the whole floor while taking a 64-40 lead into the locker room.

In fact, the Rebels' poorest shooting effort came from the free-throw line, where they shot 33 percent (1 of 3) in the first half.

However, the figure that jumped off the halftime stat sheet was UNLV's rebound advantage of 30-12.

Banks had collected 16 points by intermission, while Graham had 12 and Gilliam 11.

Wade had eight assists in the first 20 minutes.

Guard Scott Brooks, averaging 25.4 points a game heading into the contest, had 12 first-half points for the Anteaters and finished with a season-low 14.

Center Wayne Engelstad led Irvine with 15 points.

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