Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote is trying to find some help for Steve Smith. He knows a one-man gang will have little chance when the Spartans play No. 1 Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday at The Palace.

Michigan State (3-2) has slipped from fourth in the preseason poll to No. 21, mainly because teammates like Matt Steigenga and Mark Montgomery haven't always come through when the All-American Smith needed them.As a result, the Spartans lost at Nebraska and at Bowling Green. They almost let one slip away at Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Bearcats were beating Michigan State 40-25 after the first 20 minutes.

"At halftime (assistant coach) Tom Izzo said I had to score more," Smith said.

He did. Smith scored 22 of his 34 points in the second half, including a controversial basket as time expired, giving the Spartans a 65-63 victory.

Heathcote has inserted freshman guard Kris Weshinskey into the starting lineup while bringing Parrish Hickman off the bench.

"We've had difficulty," Heathcote said. "Steve will hit the open man and nothing happens. That's why we've gone to another guard in the lineup, just to get a little more offensive production and maybe even a little more offensive emphasis."

Offense never has been a problem for UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Runnin' Rebels (2-0) use forwards Larry Johnson, an All-American, and Stacy Augmon to pound teams, then demoralize opponents with the outside shooting of guards Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony.

In their last game, on Dec. 8, the defending NCAA champions routed Nevada 131-81 and set a school record with 21 three-point baskets. They had a 34-10 run over the final nine minutes of the first half and went on a 16-2 spurt to open the second half.

"When you're ahead by 20-something at the half and come out and play like that, it is very heartwarming," Tarkanian said.