From accounts of persons involved with both teams, Wednesday's late-nighter (9 MST) in Thomas and Mack will be just your ordinary game between the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, 9-0 Las Vegas, and a 5-7 Utah State club that would like to stay in it long enough to have a shot.
Fights?Furthest thing from their minds.
"I don't think so," says Aggie Gary Patterson, whose eye socket got in the way of Chris Jeter's head-butt last year to touch off the heavyweight fight. When UNLV came to Utah State for the rematch in March 1990, says Patterson, "Both teams were really nice to each other; everyone was helping each other up."
UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who has had other things to think about for 12 months, didn't care for the fight or its aftermath. "It was the first fight we've had in eight years, yet that's all they showed for two weeks straight on TV," he says, sounding irritated. "Jeter feels real bad about it."
Aggie Coach Kohn Smith says there's no animosity. "Not from our standpoint," says Smith, who was punched by Moses Scurry during the postgame altercation last January. "I'd be very disappointed if it got to that."
Still, he doesn't quite share Tarkanian's sentiment that, "The fight brought us close together again; it patched up our problems because we had a chance to talk."
"I don't know about that," says Smith.
There's been talk some of the nearly 19,000 expected fans in Thomas and Mack may have cooked up something in answer to the water bomb in Logan last year, and extra security will be added near the Aggie bench, but Smith's not worried. "They'll be on us, sure," he says.
"They can't throw sticks at us," Smith says, adding, "I hope." Patterson says Vegas fans last year gave the impression they were embarrassed about the fight, so he doesn't expect much out of the ordinary, either, and Tarkanian still says he thought the water bomb was clever and wishes he could engineer such things.
All Tark has engineered is the first team since 1986 (North Carolina) to gain every No. 1 vote on the Associated Press poll. UNLV is also unanimously No. 1 on UPI.
Tark's biggest gripe about his team? The bench is weak. "Every game we have a 35-point lead and win by 25," he says.
Tarkanian doesn't include his newest weapon, backup 7-foot center Elmore Spencer, with the bench. "I place Spencer with the first group," he says. "We have six starters." Spencer, who came in Dec. 20 from Clark Community College in Vegas, is a month away from good condition. He's big on blocks, though, with 11 in five games as a reserve.
Starting center George Ackles, getting the push from Spencer, had 16 points Monday in UNLV's 95-63 win over San Jose that made the Rebels 3-0 in Big West play. Utah State is 2-1 after falling Monday 93-91 at Cal-Fullerton.
"If I was playing against us," says Tarkanian, "I'd much rather have (Spencer) in the game than the other guy (Ackles)."
The other Vegas starters ought to be about as familiar as the Jazz's starting lineup to Utahns: preseason all-America Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and guards Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony, all starters for the 1990 national champs.
"I like my team. Absolutely great, great kids, very loyal," says Tarkanian, who counts that loyalty - when the NBA could have taken a couple of them - as the most satisfying thing to him.
Smith says he expects to start his three-guard lineup of Allen Gordon, Jay Goodman and Kendall Youngblood along with Jeff Parris and Eric Franson inside. Those two forwards were the most successful Monday night against a physical Fullerton team. Smith also wants a ballhandling lineup; he figures the third guard might add options.
"The first five minutes are real important," says Smith. "We can't let them have a big run."
Rather than worry about UNLV's overpowering capabilities, says Smith, "We're concerned about our team more than anything." Smith's team has been getting better after a poor start, and he doesn't want UNLV to derail that - "We can't be devastated," he said. "We'll go into it and just try to improve as much as we can."