Rebels rumble over Utah St.

Kohn Smith broke through the line of security guards trying to control the ugly brawl on the court with Jerry Tarkanian right behind him.

As the two walked up the tunnel, the Utah State coach kept saying over and over to Tarkanian that the fight that concluded UNLV's 124-90 victory over Utah State before 18,000 Thursday night in the Thomas and Mack Center was his fault.

"If I had never made those remarks last year this never would have happened," Smith said to Tarkanian. "What a mistake I made. I'm sorry."

Tarkanian reached over and put his right hand on Smith's shoulder in a reassuring gesture. He didn't believe that was the case.

"That had nothing to do with it," Tarkanian said. "What happened out there was inexcusable."

What happened depends on your point of view. At the center of the controversy was substitute Chris Jeter. Some say he head-butted Gary Patterson with seven seconds left. Others claim the junior tossed an errant elbow that officials never saw.

Apparently, Utah State sophomore Kendall Youngblood wanted to have a few words for Jeter at the end of the Big West Conference contest, and the fight was on. It left Youngblood with two slight cuts under his eyes, which needed two stitches to close.

It left Smith scrambling for cover after his attempt to end the fight resulted in a couple of punches from Moses Scurry. It left Stacey Augmon on his rear end after he took a solid left hand from a Utah State player. It left everyone with a sour taste in their mouths, for an otherwise quiet game.

"I don't want to talk about it," Jeter said. "I didn't do anything. I was walking off the court when some guy came over and started getting in my face."

Most of the players urged Jeter not to say anything else in the UNLV locker room. There were some threatening remarks made to reporters from some of the other players. Very few had much to say when it was all over.

"I don't want to talk about the game," Augmon said. He had apologized to Tarkanian Wednesday at practice for not playing well. The junior left the contest with 7:07 left and took 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three swats and five steals with him to the showers.

"I thought Stacey played a great game." Tarkanian said. "It's really unfortunate this happened because we played so well tonight. It was real unfortunate what happened at the end. There wasn't anything physical about that game until the last seven seconds.

"There wasn't that much emotion out there. At the end I saw Stacey Cvijanovich get fouled and they called traveling. I was upset he picked up the technical. I didn't see what happened. Chris Jeter said he did not throw a punch or an elbow."

UNLV Athletic Director Brad Rothermel had no comment on what discipline might be given to the players involved. He said they would have to look at the films to see what exactly happened.

The fight aside, UNLV raised its overall mark to 15-4 and league record to 9-1. The Rebels are back in first place by a half game over idle New Mexico State. Smith conceded that this was one of the greatest basketball squads he had ever seen.

"In the first half, we played as good a team I have seen at any time," Smith began, "and that includes my coaching days at Indiana. I think we have a long way to go as a team.

"I am not sure what happened at the end. Everything just seemed to break loose at once. It was just an unfortunate incident. I didn't sense tempers were going to erupt at the end, we were just trying to make plays against a very good basketball team.

"This might go back to what I said last year, and what I said was a mistake. It was just a dumb thing for a rookie coach to say. And I have tried over and over again to apologize for what I have said."

Patterson ended up with 15 stitches to close the wound he suffered near the game's end. Youngblood and Rich Jardine led Utah State with 16 and 17 points, respectively. The Aggies fell to 5-5 in conference and 11-10 overall. They had 25 turnovers and shot only 40 percent from the field.

On the flip side, the Rebels shot 56 percent from the field. Besides Augmon, Greg Anthony came in with 19 points and nine assists, while Anderson Hunt and Larry Johnson came home with 17 each.

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