Monday, Jan. 28, 1991 | 2 a.m.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The press sheet said 26 points for LaBradford Smith. But those numbers were just as misleading as the final score of UNLV’s 97-85 win over Smith’s Louisville Cardinals Saturday.
The fact is, when it counted, Smith was all but invisible. For that he can thank UNLV’s Greg Anthony, who once again took the other team’s best player and neutralized him.
Smith got only 10 of his 26 off of Anthony, who had a strong game himself with 12 points, six assists and five steals. It was the type of all around game by Anthony that boosted his stock with the numerous NBA scouts who were on hand at Freedom Hall.
“I thought Greg did a super job on LaBradford,” UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian said. “LaBradford’s tough to defend, but Greg played him tough.”
Smith, who is averaging 15.7 points a game while having made the transition from shooting guard to point, was held under his average by Anthony. Smith got most of his points during the final seven minutes when Louisville cut into UNLV’s 30-point lead with a 31-11 spurt. It was 84-54 when Tarkanian cleared the bench with 7:08 remaining.
Smith took advantage of freshman H Waldman, who picked up four quick fouls trying to slow him down. The disgusted look on the faces told it all as their hard work went at least somewhat down the tubes.
“Greg got mad at the end,” Tarkanian said. “He said, ‘It’s going to look like he got those off of me.’”
Let the record show that Smith had just six points at halftime as UNLV led 43-34. Let it also show that the Rebels had three players hit for 20 points or better, including Larry Johnson’s game-high 27. In addition to LJ’s big game, which included 13 rebounds, Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt dropped in 20 apiece.
Johnson and Smith had been the two highest-touted prep players to come out of Texas in 1986. Johnson went the junior college route to Odessa JC, while Smith opted for the big time and Louisville, where the Cardinals were coming off a national championship season.
The two were later teammates on the 1987 World Junior Fames team. But Saturday’s meeting was their first since ’87. Right now, the edge goes to Johnson, who has one championship ring to his credit and is part of a team that’s heavily favored to win another. Smith? The way the Cardinals are struggling, an NIT berth may be a reach for their 7-9 team.
Larry’s like Carl Malone,” Smith said of Johnson. “He’s as tough as ever.”
As for the job Anthony did on him, Smith admitted it was one of the better defensive efforts he had seen.
“Anthony’s a good player,” he said. “He plays hard. He gets into the passing lanes. He tries to bump you and he tries to take you out of your game.
Smith said Anthony was talking during the game, but it wasn’t any big deal.
“Greg’s talking didn’t bother me,” he said. “All it did was make me play harder.”
Louisville Coach Denny Crum wasn’t ready to be as glowing with his tribute when asked about Anthony.
“What did L.A. have? Twenty six? Basketball’s a 40-minute game, isn’t it? You’ve got to look at the whole game,” he said.
No coach in this case you don’t. You look at what your bet did against the other guy’s best. And Saturday, it was no contest as far as the 15-0 Rebels were concerned.