July 21, 2019 Currently: 106° | Complete forecast

Aggies trail the Hunt, 109-86

Rebels prove they still are team to beat

Shootout? Yeah, as in massacre.

Anderson Hunt and the rest of the seventh-ranked UNLV Rebels sent a message to the would be contenders of the Big West Conference that they are not ready to hand over the trophy just yet.

Riding a brilliant first half that left the overflow Thomas and Mack Center crowd of 18,790 screaming for more, the Rebels ripped past the New Mexico State Aggies 109-86 Thursday evening to solidify their chances of capturing their eight straight league title.

Hunt shook off the effects of flu symptoms to connect on eight three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes to erase any doubts which team was tops on this night. The victory was UNLV’s seventh in a row and snapped a six-game winning streak by the Aggies, UNLV is now 21-4 on the year and 13-1 in the league chase. New Mexico State fell to 20-3 overall and 11-2 in conference.

The Rebels’ only loss in league play was to the Aggies earlier this year in Las Cruces. That 83-82 upset left a sour taste in UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian’s mouth. The Rebels sweetened it for him a great deal with the 23-point victory.

“I thought the first half was as good as a half of basketball as we are capable of playing.”Tarkanian said. “New Mexico State takes great pride in their defense and we had 62 points at the half.

“Greg Anthony played with great inspiration and Anderson Hunt was just incredible. Greg played with such courage. He didn’t even want to wear his headgear. We showed our pride, courage and character tonight.”

Anthony played 32 minutes with a broken jaw sustained in Monday’s Fresno State game and was replaced for a few minutes in the second half by Stacey Cvijanovich, who was nursing a separated right shoulder. The twosome set the tone for the Rebels effort.

Anthony opted for a plastic nose guard even though the officials and the New Mexico State Staff gave their approval to wear a specifically designed hockey helmet during the game. Dr. Daniel Orr, who performed the surgery Monday night, said Anthony preferred the nose guard, so they went with it.

Anthony hit only two shots but finished with 10 points, six assists, two steals and two rebounds. Hunt led all scorers with 31 points. His nine three-pointers for the game broke Barry Young’s Thomas and Mack record of right set last year. Hunt fell just one short of the team mark set by Freddie Banks in the 1987 Final Four game against Indiana.

“I had to make an adjustment because they were playing right on me at the three point line,” Hunt said. He connected on 11 of 16 from the field. “I decided to back up one step away from the line and let it fly. They were just going on.”

“My stomach was really upset in the warm-ups. I took some stomach medicine and had a shot in the afternoon that made me feel a little better. My teammates just kept giving me the ball. I’m satisfied with the way I played.”

UNLV moved to an 80-49 lead with 13:20 to go before getting a little lax on defense and allowing New Mexico State to cut it to 17 (88-71) with 6:10 remaining. Because of the injury to Anthony, the Rebels played mostly zone for the entire game.

Tarkanian used what he likes to call his 25 defense. The variation of a 2-3 zone eliminates any driving by the guard. The players play a position on the floor, rather than a man, and then switch off when a player is coming through.

The players worked on it for two days, and it seemed to work. The Rebels also used their amoeba. Both defenses worked well. New Mexico State was held to 44 percent from the field, while the Rebels hit an accurate 59 percent.

Besides Hunt, the Rebels received 21 points and 13 rebounds from Larry Johnson, 17 points and six boards from David Butler and 11 points and eight rebounds from Stacey Augmon. Scurry had 11 off the bench to round out the attack.

“No one has played better against us all year,” New Mexico State Coach Nel McCarthy said. “They put on an incredible display of shooting. Hunt found himself in his own little zone, and really busted us. Nothing seemed to go our way, but we played hard.

“It was a big game for us also but no one can beat UNLV if they play like that. It was just one of those nights. They kicked our butt. It was amazing, Greg Anthony gets ressurected from the hospital to play and Anderson Hunt with one foot in the grave, comes out and shoots 8 of 12 from three-point range in the first half. It was amazing what Anthony could do. He did a heckuva job tonight.”

The entire team played like it was heading straight to the Final Four with no stops along the way. The Rebels forced the Aggies out of their zone and into a man defense in the second half. Unfortunately for McCarthy, the adjustment came to late.

“Anderson tore up that zone, didn’t he?” Johnson asked. “This was a big game for us Coach tells us every game is a big one. You watch. Come Sunday he’ll be telling us the Arizona game is the biggest one of the year.”

“When they beat us, it was a big deal for them. We decided to return the favor, and show them what the Running Rebels can do. Greg was really brave. I think he took a couple of shuts, but hung in there.”

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