Thursday, Feb. 21, 1991 | midnight
A cure for insomnia was found Thursday night at the Thomas and Mack Center while UNLV endured its own “Nightmare on Swenson Street.”
The Rebels wanted to get their high-octane attack into gear but the University of Pacific was content to chug along like a Model T, and even though the Rebels prevailed, 80-59, it was by no means a thing of beauty.
It wasn’t the type of game that sent your heart racing. To the contrary it was easily UNLV’s most boring performance this season and for that you can thank UOP’s patience on offense and its ability to get back on the defense and force the Rebels to play set-up basketball.
“It was like pulling teeth,” UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said of the win that improved the nation’s No.1 team to 24-0 overall, 15-0 in the Big West Conference.
Right. Without the novocain. Watching the Rebels turn it over 16 times was painful. But think if you’re Pacific Coach Bob Thomason and your team turns it over 27 times. Ouch.
“We knew we were going to turn it over, but we had too many,” Thomason said. “I was proud of the way we controlled the tempo and took their fast break away. I think they only had two fast break dunks against us.
“To have a chance, we couldn’t afford to let them get out and run. I’m sorry if the fans found it boring but you want to give yourself a chance to win.”
But it was the type of game that the Rebels were going to win despite the frustrating tactics by the Tigers. Because when push came to shove, as it often does down low, Tarkanian played his trump card, Larry Johnson.
The senior All-American produced big numbers despite a case of stomach cramps, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Thomason had no one who could match up with Johnson, as if other teams do. Freshman Glenn Griffin tried to slow Johnson down but it was a mismatch of the most preposterous proportions.
“It’s frustrating,” Thomason said of Johnson. “He’s big, strong. He’s a great player. Glenn did the best he could but it’s no contest.”
Thomason used a little of Bill Parcells’ Super Bowl strategy Thursday by trying to shorten the game and limit UNLV’s number of possessions. When the Rebels got the ball, Thomason made sure he had people back, forcing UNLV to play the game at half-court.
“They were well prepared,” UNLV’s Anderson Hunt said. “They were the first team to stop our transition game to a point. Whenever we tried to run, they had people back.
“You can’t take nothing away from them. They’re a good team. They’re well coached and they’re much improved.
Tarkanian said UNLV’s inability to take Pacific out of its offense early contributed to the pace of game.
“They ran their offense and they hit some tough shots on us,” he said. “But I don’t think we were as emotionally up as we should have been.”
Someone then reminded Tarkanian his team won by 21 points.” I guess that’s not too bad, being in a lull and winning by20,” he said.
The Tigers, who fell to 8-7 in the Big West, 12-2 overall, could have benefited from a better performance from long distance bomber Anthony Woods. The cousin of former UNLV football star Icey Woods came into the game as the league’s best three-point shooter at 47 percent. But Woods was 0 for 4 from the three-point arc and a couple of the misses came when the Tigers were attempting to claw their way back into single-digits late in the first half and early in the second.
“Anthony struggled tonight,” Thomason said. “It was just one of those things where if he’s on, we have a better chance at coming back.
“That’s all you ever ask for is a chance. Defensively, we did that. You hold Vegas to 80 points; you’re giving yourself a chance. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage offensively.
Despite a lackluster performance that resulted in just two points in 14 minutes and fouling out in the process, junior center Elmore Spencer has not shaken Tarkanian’s confidence in him. After the game, Tarkanian said, “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Elmore. He’s going to come around.” …Dell Demps led Pacific with 17 points. Don Lyttle added 16 before fouling out with 4:41 to play. …Despite the loss, UOP remained in third place in the Big West a Utah State failed to make up any ground when it lost to New Mexico State in Logan, Utah, Thursday. …UNLV officials have tightened access to the team’s locker room. Only those with credentials are now permitted where in the past virtually anyone could walk in. The difference was immediately noticeable.