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Yeah, but...look at their weak, no-test, no-chance conference, the PCAA.
So who's No. 1 now? Iowa? Iowa beat UC-Irvine 105-103. North Carolina? North Carolina lost to UCLA by five, and UCLA beat Cal State-Fullerton by one. Guess which league Irvine and Fullerton belong to? And guess who beat Irvine by 42 points? And on that occasion Anteater coach Bill Mulligan thanked Tarkanian for not running the margin up to 100.
Yeah, but...Vegas just went into Oklahoma for a rematch and lost.
Well, not really. The Sooners, now 12-3, ended up one point ahead of the Rebs in as gloriously chaotic a meeting of pumped-up, splendid athletes as one might find outside the NBA. But give Vegas the three-pointer that most of the roughly 9,600 fans in Lloyd Noble Center saw Gary (STOP DRUGS) Graham drain at the end of the first half—and which TV replays unequivocally confirmed—instead of the two points he was allowed, and the two teams might still be out there.
Not only that, but if you give the Rebels another point for the shot that Graham hit from smack in front of the Vegas bench (which again was ruled a deuce but may have been a trey) in the midst of a marvelous stretch of 15 second-half lead changes, the invaders would finish a point ahead of Oklahoma, still unbeaten and still No. 1.
"Nobody gets cheated here," said Sooner coach Billy Tubbs, explaining how the current Sooner seniors have forged a 58-1 home record. (The lone loss, which came against Kansas last season, was avenged Thursday, 76-74). "We like to think we could beat the Celtics on this floor."
And maybe they could if Larry Bird missed a point-blank 12-footer with the nearest Sooner somewhere in Tulsa. Or if Kevin McHale attempted an off-balance, goofy gorilla jam instead of just tipping in the winning rebound. For that is exactly what Vegas's Gilliam and Basnight did in the final five seconds after Oklahoma's Darryl (Choo) Kennedy had spun in the lane for the decisive go-ahead bucket with 12 seconds left.
As the Rebels roared down the court—and along the precipice of Poll Mountain—Tarkanian eschewed a timeout because his men had the floor spread exactly the way he wanted. Then they put the ball in the hands of the man he wanted: Gilliam, who already had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Harmin' Armon was beside the lower left quadrant of the foul circle, nobody within reaching distance. "But I blew it," said the 6'9" enforcer. "Nothing to do with concentration. That's my shot, and I just blew it." But Basnight, on a solo flight with the rebound, blew his as well. The Squire—"Misjudging myself," he said—had a two-foot putt for the victory. Instead, he pulled out his driver and swung for a 300-yarder—Quaaaaang! And the only No. 1 Vegas left Norman with was pinned to its won-lost record.
"You like our defense at the end?" said Tubbs. "That's our scatter. Go scatter and find somebody." The Sooner defenders haven't found anybody yet. Oklahoma was just lucky its earlier pressure defense, mirroring that of the visiting Vegans—"Shoot, this is nothin' but an intrasquad game." Tubbs had said—was enough to pressure Banks and Paddio into missing 18 three-point shots between them. And the Sooners were doubly fortunate that David Johnson, their 6'7" senior load (checking in somewhere between 240 and 265 pounds), had decided to cut out eating between snacks.
Though Oklahoma's Harvey Grant matched Gilliam's numbers (23 points, 16 rebounds) and Kennedy was there in the clutch, it wasn't so much Choo as too much Goo (the aforementioned fat-attacked Johnson) who was the difference in the Sooners' crucial 50-36 rebounding edge. Overweight and undermotivated, Johnson hadn't even played in Oklahoma's November loss at Vegas. Later, Tubbs suspended him for several games for unspecified rules violations before Johnson apologized to the team and also hitched a ride on the diet train. "David promised me he'd cut down to four meals a day," said Tubbs.