LAS VEGAS, DEC. 22 -- Each new NCAA allegation levied against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball program unleashes more suffering upon Runnin' Rebels opponents. "We can only take it out on the teams we play," forward Larry Johnson explained, "and there's plenty of frustration to take out."
Today's victim was Florida State, and the pounding was enough to make even the most conscienceless of high rollers on Gucci Row at the Thomas and Mack Center wince. The top-ranked Rebels put on another display of power and precision, leading by as many as 46 points in a 101-69 victory before 17,133 in the second half of the "Duel in the Desert" bill led by Ohio State's win over Georgetown.
These are tumultuous times in the neon town, even by UNLV's thick-skinned standards. The NCAA's latest letter-of-inquiry arrived at the school Tuesday night, barely 2 1/2 weeks after the Rebels' eligibility for postseason play this season was restored as the resolution to a 13-year legal struggle between Coach Jerry Tarkanian and the NCAA. But, as Tarkanian said, "We know how to live with controversy."
They are thriving, in fact.
The defending national champions improved to 5-0 today, extended their home-court winning streak to 22 games and their average margin of victory this season actually dipped, infinitesimally, to 35.4 points.
The Seminoles (4-3) actually stayed close longer than one might have expected. UNLV led 21-20 midway through the first half before an 18-3 burst provided a 16-point cushion that the Rebels carried into halftime. A flurry of steals, dunks and three-pointers extended UNLV's advantage to 59-34 with 2:49 gone in the second half. It was 67-36 on Stacey Augmon's layup moments later, and 91-45 on reserve guard Travis Bice's three-point jumper with 6:26 left.
Guard Anderson Hunt finished with 21 points to lead UNLV; Augmon provided 15 and Johnson 13.
And, as if the Rebels needed any more ammunition, they got Elmore Spencer. The 7-foot, 265-pound center transferred from nearby Clark County Community College on Thursday and practiced with the Rebels that afternoon. Tarkanian said he never had seen the former Atlanta prep all-American play before this week, but was impressed by today's 15-minute, 12-point stint.
"He'll be able to help us a lot by about January," Tarkanian said.