Friday, Feb. 8, 1991 | 2 a.m.
Like a battle-weary soldier crawling out of a foxhole, Fresno State head coach Gary Colson looked a little bit shell shocked as he emerged from the Bulldogs’ locker room following Thursday night’s 113-64 pounding by the top-ranked UNLV Rebels.
“I know what those folks in Baghdad feel like now,” a stunned Colson said after the Big West Conference contest before 18,883 at the Thomas and Mack Center.
“I’ve been in (coaching) thirty-something years and played Georgetown when they had Ewing and Arizona when they were ranked number one and the UCLA teams at Pauley with Walton and Kareem.”
“People might laugh at me and Coach Wooden might get upset with me, but this is undoubtedly the best ballclub ever put together on the college level.”
Colson, who coached at Pepperdine University and New Mexico before taking over the Fresno State program this season, wasn’t through lauding the 19-0 Rebels (11-0 in Big West play).
“Everything they do is perfect,” Colson said. “I can’t applaud them too much. I was sort of in awe of them. I looked out there and my kids were battling their hearts out, but to no avail.”
“It’s demoralizing. It’s like Baghdad they keep going off boom, boom. They’re awesome, what can I say?”
Even Rebels head coach Jerry Tarkanian, who has been known to find flaws in his team’s play when in lopsided victories such as this one, was full of praise for the way the Rebels averted a letdown with the game against No.2 Arkansas looming less than 72 hours away.
“I’m really pleased with the way our guys played,” Tarkanian said. “I’m really pleased considering the fact that this week there has been all kinds of talk about Arkansas. Even us coaches, I think all of us were pretty much thinking about Arkansas.”
“I was afraid that we were really ready for a flat effort, but God darn they played hard. They absolutely played great defense. I couldn’t be any more pleased with the way we played.”
Rebels guard Greg Anthony said there was no danger of the team looking ahead to Arkansas and getting upset by Fresno State.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors on this team and we’ve experienced a lot and we realize what it takes to be successful,” he said. “We could have lost this game just as easily as won it if you’re not focused, if you’re not mentally prepared.”
“The biggest factor for us is not to be concerned with the other team. We have to go out and play at our level, no matter what the talent level of the other team is. We have to be ready to go out and play for 40 minutes the way we’re capable of playing. I think we accomplished what we wanted to tonight.”
For about two minutes on Thursday night, it appeared as if Tarkanian’s worst-case scenario would come true. The Rebels scored the first basket of the game on a layup by Larry Johnson, then watched as the Bulldogs scored six unanswered points to forge ahead 6-2.
That would be about it for the Bulldogs, however, as the Rebels went on a 24-4 run over the next six and a half minutes that put them ahead 26-10 with 11:32 remaining in the half. UNLV didn’t let up over the final 11 minutes of the half, and took a 59-28 cushion into intermission.
In fairness to Fresno State, the Bulldogs were without their leading scorer, junior forward Tod Bernard, who remained at the team’s hotel after coming down with the flu earlier in the day on the flight to Las Vegas. Bernard is averaging 20.9 points a game, fourth best in the conference.
But on this night, against this Rebels team, Bernard’s presence wouldn’t have mattered, according to Colson.
“With Tod or without Tod, they were still going to kick our butts,” Colson said. “It wouldn’t have mattered. You can’t use (Bernard’s absence) as an excuse. I thought our starters gave it everything they had.”
So did UNLV’s. In fact so did UNLV’s substitutes, who protected the 40-point lead the starters had built midway through the second half.
Johnson finished with a game high 23 points and fellow starters Anderson Hunt (15) and Stacey Agumon (13) also reached double figures. And so did reserves Elmore Spencer and Travis Bice, who added 15 points each off the bench – Bice on 5-of-6 three-point shooting.
In Bernard’s absence, Wilbert Hooker lead the Bulldogs (10-11, 5-7 in the Big West) with 20 points, Dave Barnett added 17 and Carl Ray Harris 14.
With eight assists Thursday night, Anthony moved ahead of Mark Wade into second place on UNLV’s all-time assist list with 696. He is 141 behind the Rebels’ all-time leader in that category, Danny Tarkanian… The Rebels’ 49-point win over Fresno State was the third-largest margin of victory this season. UNLV scored a 51-point win over Cal State Long Beach and a 50-point rout of Nevada-Reno earlier this season… Rebels forward Bobby Joyce was not with the team for Thursday night’s game. Joyce left Las Vegas to be with his sister, who is about to give birth while her husband, Joyce’s brother-in-law, is serving in the Persian Gulf… Forward Melvin Love complained of stomach cramps Thursday and did not play… Fresno State had only five two-point field goals in the first half and 12 for the game. The Bulldogs were 11 of 24 from three-point range (5 of 12 in the first half).