Idaho State players already have discovered how their victory over UCLA Thursday night will affect their lives. They got up this morning to take showers after a marathon celebration at a hamburger joint and found there was no hot water.
"Imagine that happening to UCLA after a big win," norward Greg Griffin said with a laugh.
It was the oddsmakers who were laughing at Idaho State prior to the UCLA game. The made the Bruins 14-point favorites. But no one is laughing now at the Bengals, even if they have a 7-foot center who tried to put on weight one summer by eating 200 pounds of peanuts.
"And I hadn't even heard of Jimmy Carter then," said Steve Hayes. "But even if he offered me a peanut now, I'd probably say no. I can't stand them anymore."
The peanuts haven't prevented Hayes from turning into a fine offensive-minded player. He scored 27 points against UCLA, but only a similar outstanding performance will keep Idaho State competitive against Nevada-Las Vegas Saturday in the NCAA West Regional final (4 p.m., WRC-TV). Las Vegas is favored by seven points.
No one from Idaho State really wanted to talk about Las Vegas today. The victory over UCLA was so juicy that the players wanted to munch on it until the last savory morsel was digested.
The Idaho State team is a collection of players bigger schools didn't want. It is coached by a man known as "Killer" who was convinced to leave a Southern California junior college, mainly because of a nearby trout stream that would satisfy his fishing urges. Not ont of its players had been on regional television, much less a national show, before Thursday night.
"I used to sit in front of a television when I was a kid and see UCLA win all those titles," said Hayes. "Then here I was playing them. I kept saying to myself, "This is UCLA, this is UCLA."
Hayes grew up in Aberdeen, Idaho, a farming community of some 1,500 people. It has 11 churches, a bowling alley, a potato-processing plant and two bars. Hayes is probably the only Bengal who views Pocatello, population: 50,000 where Idaha State is located, as a big city.
"In Aberdeen, all you can do is look at horses and cows," he said. "They have movie theaters in Pocatello."
A general engineering major with a 3.6 grade average, Hayes has come a long way since his freshman year when he was chosen for one opponent's all-stiff squad. Now he is 35 pounds heavier (at 225) and averages 20 points a game.
The rest of coach Jim Killingsworth's best players either live or attended junior college in Southern California. For them, Pocatello is a small, friendly, chilly town. And not much else.
"We made a sacrifice by coming here," said Griffin, a 6-7 transfer from Pasadena Junior College. "But it's one place outside of Souther California where you know you've got a shot at making the NCAA tournament. And I figured one day maybe I could play UCLA."
Griffin teams with Hayes and 6-10 Jeff Cook to give Killingsworth a tough-rebounding, high-scoring front line that dominated UCLA in the second half with 14 more rebounds. But the key players in the Las Vegas game will be guards Scott Goold and Ed Thompson, who will have to overcome the Rebel's tenacious press and get the ball inside to the big men.
Thompson is the second-leading scorer (13.8) and No. 1 hater of Pocatello winters. He has been known to wear two stocking caps to shield this ears from the winds and one team officials swears he owns "the heaviest," biggest winter jacket I've ever seen." But Thompson has a right to be cold - he grew up in Santa Barbara, Calif., a very sunny spot.
It will be Killingsworth's job to get his players's heads out of the Provo clouds prior to Saturday's tipoff. But he was talking today like a man who knows what his fate will be in this one.
"I figure we had a shot at UCLA because we were stronger at center, which is a good place to start," he said. "If my guards protected the ball from their pressure, we'd be okay. We'd seen them play. We knew they weren't invincible.
"But Vegas has such quickness and speed. We probably can't zone them like we did UCLA. If we go man-to-man, we might have some problems."
Those problems began developing in the final minutes of the UCLA game, when Idaho State (25-4) almost blew an eight-point lead in the face of Bruin press. And Las Vegas has a much more effective press, which it uses all game.
At least Killingsworth won't be surprised by anything Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian tries. They are close friends from their days as coaches in the California junior-college ranks. "We've spent many hours in a restaurant in Norwalk (Calif.) putting Xs and Os on napkins," said Tarkanians. "The guys almost went out of business, we cost him so much money on napkins."
They've coached against each other in only two games. Tarkanian won the first and Killingsworth the second, the latter for the California junior college championship 10 years ago. Since then, they've gone different ways.