There were no water bombs this time, no Jerry Tarkanian masks, no fights. Just your normal, everyday Runnin' Rebel thrashing.
The unbeaten, No. 1-ranked UNLV Rebels quietly rolled into town for another nationally televised game Monday, impressed a capacity crowd (and die-hard TV viewers) and left with a decisive 43-point victory.Utah State fans who stayed up way past their bedtime with the faint hope that their Ags might upset the Runnin' Rebs for the first time in 19 meetings were disappointed again as they witnessed an impressive performance by what may be one of the greatest college teams ever.
In defending their national title this year, the Rebels are displaying a smothering defense that often gets overlooked amid the 3-point bombs and slam dunks which have made the team famous.
"Our defense is the best part of our game, there's no question about that," said UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian. "I think coaches all know that, and I think a lot of the media is figuring it out now."
The Rebels completely shut down the Aggie offense, holding the Ags to 38 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers, thanks to 14 steals.
The Aggies couldn't score for the first five minutes of the game, leaving their poor fans standing and clapping (they don't sit until the Ags score). USU missed its first four shots, committed three straight turnovers that led to easy Rebel baskets, then missed three more shots.
When Jay Goodman couldn't inbound the ball from under the Aggie basket within five seconds against the tough Vegas defense, Stacey Augmon quickly scored a 3-pointer at the other end to make it 16-0. By that point ESPN viewers were already yearning for a rerun of a beach volleyball game or probably doing something smart, like going to sleep.
"We really jumped out early, it was incredible," said Tarkanian. "We told them before the game that if everybody did their job, they couldn't get a good shot against us. And that's what happened early in the game - they didn't get a good shot until it was like 18-2."
The Rebels put their top defensive player, Augmon, on Kendall Youngblood and told Anderson Hunt to stick to the Aggies' leading scorer, Jay Goodman, like flypaper.
"We told Anderson not to help out on anybody else, just to keep Goodman from getting started," said Tarkanian. Goodman never did, shooting 4 for 16, with two of his buckets coming against the Rebel scrubs.
"Our defense gets overlooked a lot," said Hunt. "Anybody who thinks of Vegas, thinks of the running game, but our defense brings the offense. That was the key tonight."
Although USU's Youngblood broke out of a recent slump with a game-high 28 points, he noticed a difference in the Rebel defense since the first meeting with UNLV three weeks ago.
"They really picked up the defense tonight," he said. "You saw all the dunks they got. That was from their defense."
On the night, the Rebs had 10 dunks and 14 layups.
"Our defense has been lagging a bit the last few games, so we had to come out today and really tighten up," said Larry Johnson, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds. "The defense generates the offense."