Sunday, Feb. 15, 1987 | 2 a.m.
UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian didn’t like the way the Rebels played in the first half Saturday against UC Santa Barbara, so he let them know about it.
It looked like Tarkanian’s halftime speech was just what UNLV needed to hear, as it opened up a 17-point lead early in the second half.
Unfortunately for Tarkanian, he couldn’t pull his team back into the locker room for a little more inspiration when the Gauchos made a run at the Rebels. But UNLV, as it has so often, has just enough to hold off Santa Barbara, 86-76, in a Pacific Coast Athletic Association game at the Thomas and Mack Center.
The win improves the top-ranked Rebels’ overall record to 26-1 and PCAA mark to 14-0. The Gauchos fell to 11-11 and 6-7.
“I was mad at halftime,” Tarkanian said. “I guess we thought it was going to get easy. But it got difficult. We just quit defensively. We quit playing.”
A 15-0 Santa Barbara spurt closed the gap to 61-59. The Gauchos’ last nine points of the run came on three-pointers, two by Carrick DeHart and another by Brian Johnson.
The Rebels decided it was time to go to Armon Gilliam. The Rebels’ senior forward hit four straight hoops, giving UNLV a 69-65 lead.
After a UNLV timeout, Freddie Banks and Gerald Paddio each drilled three-pointers, giving the Rebels a 75-68 lead with 2:21 to play.
UNLV hit 11 free throws in the final 1:26 to hold off Santa Barbara.
“Fortunately, we made the big plays when we had to,” Tarkanian said. “I tried to tell them Santa Barbara was going to be tough.”
Tarkanian was asked if he was bother by inconsistency, or occasional lapses—such as the Gauchos’ 15-0 run.
“What team doesn’t have lapses? He asked. “It’s harder than hell to go out there and play hard 40 minutes very game. We’re 26-1. I’d say that’s pretty consistent.
Santa Barbara head coach Jerry Plumm said his club finally succumbed to the Rebels’ defensive pressure.
“There was a six-minute stretch during the first half we played down to their pressure,” he said. “Instead of being up at halftime, we’re down by eight. Then it was the same thing early in the second half. They just wear you down.”
Gilliam paced the Rebels with 27 points. When the going got tough, the Rebels knew who to get the ball to.
“There are three things we do on offense, and one of them is always for Armon,” Tarkanian said. “We started looking for that at that certain time.”
Paddio added 17 for UNLV, center Jarvis Basnight scored 15 and Banks had 13. Paddio, who has been in a shooting slump, hit 7 of 12 shots from the floor.
“I’d lost confidence in my shot, but it’s coming back now,” Paddio said. “I’m working on it all the time. It’s not all the way back, but it’s getting there.”
UNLV point guard Mark Wade broke the Rebels’ single-season assist record. Wade’s 12 assists gave him 294 fro the year, breaking Danny Tarkanian’s record of 289, sent in 1983-84.
Santa Barbara center Khris Fortson led the Gauchos with 20 points. Brian Vaughns had 14 and Johnson added 13. Brian Shaw had a rare triple double—12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Rebels will play at Cal State Long Beach Thursday night and at New Mexico State next Saturday.