UNLV GRABS NCAA LEAD: This time last year, UNLV was headed home after failing to make the 36-hole cut in the NCAA golf championships.

After two rounds at the University Course in Albuquerque, N.M., the Rebels are on top following a record round as they look for their first national golf title.

As they did last year, the Rebels entered the tourney as the nation's top-ranked team. UNLV was 4-under-par and in a tie for sixth going into Thursday's second round, when the Rebels quickly showed their rating was on the mark.

Bill Lunde and Charley Hoffman each posted 6-under-par 30s on the front side to lead a Rebels charge that ended the day with a team total of 21 birdies and two eagles. UNLV finished at 19-under, giving it a 5-shot lead and a two-round tourney record of 23-under.

Lunde shot a 7-under-par 65 with seven birdies and 11 pars. Hoffman put together a round that included five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys for a career-low 67.

UNLV's 23-under for two rounds easily bettered the previous two-round record of 11-under set by Stanford in 1994, and it put the Rebels in position to take a crack at the 72-hole mark of 23-under set by Arizona in 1992 over the same course.

Georgia Tech was second behind UNLV at 18-under, while Clemson was at 15-under and UCLA and first-round leader Oklahoma State each were at 12-under.

Oklahoma State's Boyd Sum-mer-hays of Farmington, Utah, struggled with a 77 Thursday following a first-round 70.

CHAMPS TAME MEMORIAL: The only one of the last nine major championship winners not under par after the first day of the Memorial Tournament was Mark O'Meara - and he wasn't there.

PGA Championship winner Davis Love III was tied for the lead with Steve Pate, Trevor Dodds and Joey Sindelar after shooting a 6-under-par 66 Thursday on a firm and fast Muirfield Village layout.

But while players went low in the first round, no one separated from the field as 19 players were bunched within two strokes at the top of the leaderboard.

U.S. Open champion Ernie Els was among seven players in at 67. Steve Jones, Tom Lehman and Mark Brooks, who won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA in 1996, were two strokes back at 68.

CO-LEADERS AT ROCHESTER: Joan Pitcock, benefiting from a few adjustments in her golf swing, opened with a 5-under-par 67 Thursday to join Moira Dunn in the lead of the LPGA Rochester International.

Canada's Dawn Coe-Jones, wielding a new putter, and Brandie Burton were just off the pace at 68. Two shots back were Janice Gibson and Heather Daly-Donofrio.

Power-hitter Laura Davies crashed to a 10-over 82 in her first outing in five years on the tight, tree-lined Locust Hill Country Club course. She had a quadruple-bogey 9 on No. 4.

College baseball

AUSTIN NATION'S BEST: Stanford pitcher Jeff Austin had to listen to his answering machine over and over before it sunk in that he was Baseball America's college player of the year.

"I played the message two or three times before I could believe it," Austin said Thursday. "I was surprised. I didn't keep up with the news going on out there. I was just playing and concentrating on what I needed to do."

Austin, a junior who went 12-3 and posted a 3.11 ERA, started 18 games, completing eight. He recorded 136 strikeouts in 133 innings, allowed 118 hits and issued only 32 walks.


PENS SIGN MILLER: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed goaltender Craig Hillier on Thursday, four days before they would have relinquished their rights to him.

Hillier, their first-round draft pick in 1996, would have become eligible for the June 27 NHL draft if he hadn't reached terms by Monday.

LEMIEUX SEEKS ASSIST: Mario Lemieux, despite having no plans to return to hockey, is enlisting the NHL Players Association's help in securing deferred payments owed him by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Lemieux, who retired last year, filed a grievance against the Penguins through the NHLPA shortly before the regular season ended. If he had waited much longer, he would not have fallen under the union's protection.

The Penguins are believed to be overdue in paying about $5 million of the $24 million that is owed Lemieux over the next 8-10 years.

MACINNIS REOPENS TALKS: Shoulder surgery is off for St. Louis Blues defenseman Al Mac-Innis, and contract negotiations are on.

Blues general manager Larry Pleau said Wednesday he's willing to reopen talks with MacInnis' agent Don Meehan.

After MacInnis rejected a three-year, $12 million offer in March, the Blues withdrew the offer and said negotiations would be off until July 1, when MacInnis becomes an unrestricted free agent.

MacInnis, 34, rejected the offer largely because of a clause that made the deal contingent on him undergoing successful surgery on the shoulder, which popped out for the second time in 10 months in December.

If he had failed the team's training camp physical after the surgery - which would have been the second on the shoulder in three years - the contract would have been voided, with MacInnis receiving a $1 million settlement.


MILLER RIPPED OFF: Thieves ransacked Phoenix Mercury coach-general manager Cheryl Miller's apartment, taking her four championship basketball rings and other property while she was at the WNBA team's practice.

"I'm hoping when they find the person that it isn't someone who had knowledge of my schedule," a disconsolate Miller said Thursday. "I'm very lucky no one was there when I got home."

The theft, which is valued at about $9,000 in losses, capped a bad day Wednesday for the Hall of Fame basketball player. Practice had gone badly, her car blew a tire on the way home and her brother Reggie's team, the Indiana Pacers, lost to the Chicago Bulls 106-87 in Game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals.

The thieves also opened her refrigerator and drank three of her beers besides taking money and other things.

"So not only did they take my rings and my VCR and the remote, but they were toasting it up," she said.

Miller earned two rings from Southern California's back-to-back NCAA women's basketball champions in 1983-84.