Sunday, Dec. 10, 1989 | 4:47 p.m.
NORMAN, Okla.- When it came time to check the tanks for that last bit of fuel down the stretch, the fifth-ranked UNLV Rebels were already running on empty.
The Oklahoma Sooners sensed this half-step of fatigue and turned up the pressure just enough to leave the Rebels in a tired heap en route to an 89-81 victory Saturday afternoon before the third-largest crowd in Lloyd Noble Arena history.
Freshman guard Terry Evans and off-guard Skeeter Henry gave the 11,700 fans more than enough to roar about with an outside shooting display that kept UNLV's guards on the defensive the entire afternoon.
UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian used a zone defense late in the first half in hopes of keeping his team fresh for the second, but over the final 10 minutes of the game the Rebels managed only 13 points.
Evans hit 6 of 6 from beyond the three-point line to tie a Big Eight record, while Henry was busy driving through the lane to deliver a one-two punch that Tarkanian had no answer for. Evans finished with 24 points, while Henry added 17 in a game of high intensity and near brawls.
"Coming in we were told Evans was a weakling," Tarkanian said. "That shows you what we knew. I thought after playing a zone in the first half that our guys would come out and play hard defensively. Our guards didn't do that."
"We gave up 21 three-point shots, and that's not supposed to happen in our defensive scheme. Our guys just didn't get out there and deny them the shot. I don't know why. Maybe we were a little tired, but that's no excuse. Oklahoma outplayed us when it mattered the most."
With 10:13 left in the game UNLV held a 68-67 advantage based mainly on steals out front and Larry Johnson down low. It was the only time UNLV's transition game seemed to work effectively. That didn't last long.
A courageous William Davis hit a short turnaround jumper to lead 12th-ranked Oklahoma on a 15-4 run over the next four minutes that had the Rebels trailing for good at 79-72. Davis came in as the Sooners' leading scorer, but a bout of Tendinitis in his foot had him hobbling for most of the game.
He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes on the floor. Oklahoma Coach Billy Tubbs said Friday that he didn't expect Davis to be able to contribute that much.
"We played a very courageous ballgame against a very good team," Tubbs said. "William was obviously hurting out there, but he wanted to play against Larry Johnson. Any time you have a guy like Larry, you're in the game."
"We don't normally go into a game looking to stop any one player. We just try to play and beat you. Early on, we discovered we couldn't do that against Larry. He's an incredible talent."
But one that was too tired to help the Rebels in the waning moments. Four times in the final four minutes UNLV had a chance to get back in it. A missed dunk by an ailing Stacey Augmon on the break, a missed three-pointer by an injured Anderson Hunt off the break and two errant shots by Greg Anthony were all Oklahoma needed.
Johnson got UNLV within three (84-81) with 1:33 left on a lay in, but the Rebels would not score again.
Johnson finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds in 38 minutes on the floor. Hunt added 14, while Augmon and James Jones each dropped in 10.
"Without David Butler, Larry is our only offensive weapon," Tarkanian said. "He had three guys on him the whole game. Anderson hurt his wrist early in the game and couldn't shoot."
"I wasn't going to play him in the second half, but then we decided to use him as a decoy. They didn't know he was hurt. He still hit a couple of shots on the break, but they were with his left hand."
Trainer Jerry Koloskie said Hunt would be taken to the hospital for X-rays Sunday as a precaution. He said he suffered a badly sprained right hand and would miss a few days of practice.
"I hurt it early after I made a layup and fell on my wrist," Hunt said. "It really started hurting and swelling at halftime. I wasn't going to play, but coach said he needed me. So I came in and did my best."
Augmon followed Hunt's lead, despite tendonitis in both knees Koloskie said that Augmon told him he was hurting at the half. They iced them down in an attempt to keep him the game. He will also miss a few days of practice.
"Stacey never tells us when he's hurt," Tarkanian said. "This was a tough, tough game for Stacey. We had him moving all over the floor today."
"He played the two, three and four spots. He guarded Henry, Davis, Martin and (Smokey) McCovery. When we get (David) Butler back, we'll leave Stacey strictly on the perimeter. It's really tough for him mentally to know what to do."
Lack of depth continued to be a problem for the Rebels. The one bright spot off the bench was Stacey Cvijanovich, who came in during the first half when Anthony picked up three quick fouls. But when Tarkanian needed help from Chris Jeter, Barry Young and Travis Bice, he didn't get it.
As a result, the final minutes belonged to Oklahoma. The Sooners took full advantage of the staggering Rebels to collect their fourth win of the season without a defeat. UNLV fell to 3-2. It was the fourth straight victory for Oklahoma over UNLV and the Sooners' 34th straight win at Noble. The only other coach to accomplish this feat (winning four straight) against Tarkanian is Georgetown's John Thompson.
"This is turning into a great rivalry," Tubbs concluded. "Our guys dug deep to get this win. I'm very proud of them.