Monday, Feb. 18, 1991 | midnight
McCarthy, whose New Mexico Aggies played the top-ranked Rebels tougher Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center than any other team this season, put the 86-74 loss in perspective.
“They’re number one and we’re number 12 and they beat us by 12,” McCarthy said. “That tells you we’re right where we ought to be.”
If you want to go by that convoluted logic, fine. But McCarthy said before the game he knew it was going to be an uphill battle against college basketball’s juggernaut.
“I think we’re mentally tough,” he said. “Especially our returning players. But Vegas is tremendous when it comes to mental toughness. Nothing seems to rattle them.
“When you look at all the adversity they’ve been through with the NCAA, it’s even more impressive. To me, mental toughness is an inborn trait. Either you are, or you aren’t.”
How dominant is UNLV? McCarthy said they’re the big man on campus.
“Vegas is like the guy in high school who gets all the girls and kicks everyone’s ass,” he said. “And I mean that with respect. They’ve got it all. Great pressure defense. Explosive offense. Tremendous versatility. Excellent coaching.”
McCarthy didn’t want to get into making comparisons with other great teams but he said the 1976 Indiana team people are comparing UNLV to didn’t have the great overall athletes the Rebels do. Nor do they have the Rebels cockiness.”
“When you’re the champion, you kinda get a loose booty. You strut your stuff,” McCarthy said. “Right now, they’re the champ.”