Good vs. evil?
What about east vs. West? Tobacco Road vs. the Strip? Grits vs. Glitz?
Bookworms vs. Croupiers? Blue vs. Red, for Godsakes?
Choose any of the
sociologically significant polarities enveloping the national championship that
you wish, but when the Runnin' (positively Ragin') Rebels of UNLV got finished
with poor Duke—Miss vs. Match: The official number was 103-73, if you are
keeping track on your keno ticket—they had turned a morality play into
astonishing theater of the absurd.
What's more, any
minute now in Sin City they will be referring to UNLV's NCAA victory as The
Title from the Two Ay, that being what the National Collegiate Athletic
Association has become known as around the Rebels' basketball office.
Investigators have made 11 visits to the campus in the last nine months during
their current probe into charges of academic irregularities and recruiting
violations, so it's no wonder the Two Ay has become such an intimate component
of university life. And what about all those boos from the UNLV cheering
section in Denver's McNichols Arena on Monday night when the chairman of the
Two Ay basketball committee, Jim Delaney, was introduced at the awards
ceremonies? That just showed that Vegas rooters have healthy eyesight. They
undoubtedly saw several of the Two Ay tournament committeemen's faces turn even
grimmer than usual as UNLV was scoring 18 unanswered points early in the second
half to clinch the championship. "I don't look on this as sweet revenge,
just sweet," said Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian, who only last week
settled, at an estimated cost to him of $370,000, a lawsuit with the Two Ay
that had been festering for 13 years.
vindication?" said Tark's wife, Lois. "[Jerry's] vindicated as a
While Duke showed
up on Monday night in its characteristic bridesmaid's veil—the Blue Devils now
being zero for eight in Final Fours—Tarkanian's swifter, stronger and more
confident legions were dressed to kill. They raised their game to a wholly
different level. Men vs. Toys? Let's go to the videotape.
The key for Vegas
was 6'7", 250-pound junior Larry Johnson, who in only 30 minutes on the
court contributed 22 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, two three-pointers and
one extraordinary flip-behind-his-back-while-lunging-to-the-floor save of a
ball about to go out of bounds. "You were so physical, you fouled me
out," shouted Johnson's junior teammate Stacey Augmon (12 points and seven
assists in 26 minutes before getting his fifth personal), joking that Johnson's
play was so rugged Augmon had, in effect, been one of its victims.
In all, it was
the biggest blowout in the history of the championship game. It was not just
that Vegas became the first team to score 100 or more points in the final, or
that it won by the largest margin ever. That was mere offense in a game in
which the Rebels' defense was the story. Duke's skinny freshman point guard,
Bobby Hurley, was simply overwhelmed. Harried, surrounded, throwing the ball
into the finally humbled Duke band, he behaved like the TV cartoon character
Bart Simpson ("Don't have a cow, man") as his coach, Mike Krzyzewski,
squirmed on the bench.
Vegas backcourt of Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony delivered the punishing
perimeter defense—"We couldn't get the ball past the hash marks," said
Duke forward Christian Laettner—and, on offense, beat the Blue Devils off the
dribble, on the run and every whichway for open shots. "It was scary just
watching them," said Duke center Alaa Abdelnaby. "They engulfed
beleaguered Tark rarely chomped on his omnipresent towel, so easily did UNLV
rush to a 21-11 lead. The defense of the Rebels—"Vegas wouldn't let us play
well, wouldn't let us function," said Coach K—drove Hurley out of the game
with 12:37 left in the first half, whereupon he was replaced first by senior
Phil Henderson, who moved over from shooting guard, and then by fellow rookie
Bill McCaffrey, who were even less effective.
Just before Vegas
took a 47-35 lead at intermission, Duke sophomore Brian Davis made an attempt
to slap high fives with Laettner, missed and instead smacked his teammate in
the face. It was that kind of rocky night in the Rockies for the team from