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December 20, 2014

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Color from the scene at Thomas & Mack Center: We have a wire job! Rebels win, and Louie Armstrong sings!

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Sam Morris

UNLV students hold up a giant cut out of Mike Moser during their game against San Diego State Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

UNLV vs. SDSU - Feb. 11, 2012

This is a three photo sequence of UNLV forward Mike Moser dunking on San Diego State forward Garrett Green during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 65-63. Launch slideshow »
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UNLV student Joey Shea holds up a giant cutout of Dave Kirvin's head, because an important college basketball game calls for such.

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The student section at the UNLV-San Diego State game. There are a million stories up there ... and a dozen big heads.

Updated at 3:05 pm.: The final sequence has Chase Stanback missing the front end of a one-and-one, but teammate Justin Hawkins pulling in the rebound and drawing a foul. He makes the first but misses the second, and the Aztecs rebound with 10 seconds left and a chance to tie it at 65 or win it. But Hawkins makes an open-court steal from Aztec guard Xavier Thames, the buzzer blares and the Rebels escape with a 65-63 victory. The crowd, exhausted, files out, as Louie Armstrong sings, "What a Wonderful World." And that is a fitting conclusion. What a ballgame.

Updated at 3 p.m.: Crowd is standing. UNLV in possession after a stop, 13.7 to go, leading 64-63. Expect a foul, real quick-like, after this timeout.

Updated at 2:50 p.m.: With the crowd howling, San Diego State takes a 63-62 lead on a 3-pointer by Jamaal Franklin. But a steal and layup by Oscar Bellfield puts the Rebels up 64-63 with 37.6 to play. Time out, Aztecs. Fight song is blaring. Crowd is bonkers. This is the fun!

Updated at 2:45 p.m.: Three minutes left, UNLV up 62-60. UNLV Police officers are in the tunnel to my right. I believe I have been spotted on TV ...

Updated at 2:40 p.m.: S.D. State has cut the lead to 5, 62-57, with 5;06 to play. Time out. It's going to be a wire job! Wire job, I tell you!

Updated at 2:33: p.m.: Timeout at 7:53, UNLV up 58-50. Quick list of those I have spotted today who worked at UNLV when I was hanging around the hoops program in the late-1990s: Administrator Jerry Koloski, trainer Dave Tomchek, basketball SID Andy Grossman, announcer Dick Calvert ... who else? Oh. The coach, Dave Rice ...

Updated at 2:30 p.m.: Rebel mascot Hey Reb was just passed up in student section 109. Seemed Hey Reb was groped about a half-dozen times on his trip to the top row. Score update at the 10-minute mark is UNLV 58, S.D. State 46, Hey Reb 6.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. Sighting of the day! First, a hint: What entertainer who lives in Vegas (or, Henderson) attended both the Super Bowl and is here this afternoon (pause). Flavor Flav! Big clock, shades, Cheshire grin. The whole package. Wearing Rebel Red, too.

Updated at 2:15 p.m.: During the last timeout an old Mordechai commercial, starring Larry Johnson and Jerry Tarkanian, was played for the crowd. These are priceless. The Jewelers are marking their 35th anniversary with these ads. Classic.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. Time out at 16:08, Rebels up 45-36 -- near that 9.5 number -- and my list of favorite Rebels when I covered the team from 1996-'98: 1. Warren Rosegreen (the rebounding machine). 2. Ty Nesby. 3. Kevin James. 4. Mark Dickel. 5. Grant Rice.

Updated at 2:05 p.m.: I am reliably informed that Terri Maruca and Kate Whiteley, who work for Kirvin Doak, arranged for the big head of Dave. UNLV is up 41-31 during an injury timeout, which silents the arena. Now would be a good time for some Kenny Gee, or not ...

Updated at 1:45 p.m.Score at the half is 37-29, Rebels. Maybe not making the bet was a good move afterall. I am going to bet something today, I tell you. The 1987 Rebles are being honored at intermission. That was UNLV's second Final Four team. Lost to Indiana by four in the national semifinals, and Indiana went on to knock off Syracuse in the title game with a late jumper by Keith Smart. Rony Seikaly, who went on to be a pretty good DJ, was the starting center of that Syracuse team.

Updated at 1:40 p.m.: Anthony Marshall just converted on a nifty little spin move in the low post. That's me, playing sports writer. Marshall and I are about the same height, 6-foot-3, but it seems he would tower over me. And boom! A 3-pointer by Stanback gives UNLV a 31-27 lead with 2:11 left. Great ballgame.

Updated at 1:36 p.m.: I see Insert Coins has signage on Tarkanian Court. Insert Coins is the new Gameworks, which is closing on the Strip in March after 15 years of me never going to Gameworks.

Updated at 1:30 p.m.: Bucket by Mike Moser makes it 25-24, S.D. State. Why didn't I bet that 9.5-point line, getting that number with the Aztecs? Bad karma, probably. But this looks like a wire job, folks. Moser just converted a tip-jam on a missed 3 by Wallace, and I had a Keon Clark flashback!

Updated at 1:20 p.m.: Great touch to post the UNLV fight song on the video panels as the band plays the UNLV fight song. Or, if you like, the UNLV Song of Respectful Dissent. Another random thought: San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher looks enough like Jimmy Carter that he could play Carter in "Legends in Concert."

Meanwhile, a Mike Moser 3-pointer and Oscar Bellfield layup have the Rebels in front, 12-11. Last night I saw Motley Crue at the Joint for a second time. Now this. It is a different type of noise, explosions vs. a shrill, but both rock your socks.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. The crowd roared at the appearance of Mike Tyson during the video clip played before the Rebels were introduced. "I know what time it is," he says, and I, for one, concur. Packed house just fell a bit quiet as the Aztecs have moved out to an 11-5 lead at the 14:19 mark.

**

Opener: I have one message for those seated in the Thomas & Mack student section: Pace yourself, kids.

It's one of the great social tragedies in Las Vegas, those who burn off their flummery early in the day and crater when it counts. Movies are built on this reality. Usually its tourists, but today the student section at the UNLV Runnin' Rebel-San Diego State Aztecs game seems to be running a little hot early. For the past hour they've been whooping it up, seated in the arena's lower level, across from the Rebels' bench.

A bit earlier I waded into that region, looked up and saw a few giant cutout heads of various Vegas newsmakers, including Jerry Tarkanian, Wayne Newton, UFC chief Dana White and Francis Albert Sinatra. One that startled me, for the "who" and size of it all, was of a good friend of mine, Dave Kirvin. Dave is the founder of Kirvin Doak Communications, a guy I have known for about 20 years, a former sports writer who was working at Ventura County (Calif.) Newspapers when I was a sports writer for the Redding Record Searchlight, in Northern California. Both papers were owned by the Scripps Howard News Service.

And now, today, there is this big head of Dave staring back at me at this Mountain West Conference basketball game. Life is just so weird.

The guy holding a sign is UNLV student Joey Shea, a member of the Grandmamas, named in tribute of the character once played by Larry Johnson in Nike TV commercials. As he held the sign aloft, Shea said the signs are merely of random Las Vegas-connected people of note. About all I can say about it is, nice shot, Dave.

Also earlier, I ran into UFC official Marc Ratner, the former Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director. Ratner has spent decades around the fight game and is still looking for a way to get into the "Power of Love" Keep Memory Alive gala set for next Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The event is the annual fundraiser for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and this year is honoring Muhammad Ali on the event of his 70th birthday. Ratner said he was surprised that Sugar Ray Leonard was not listed among those who attended the funeral of Angelo Dundee, the great fight trainer who worked with both Ali and Leonard during the peaks of their careers. Ratner was a good friend of Dundee, and so many other major figures in the fight game. He should be at the "Power of Love" event.

Rebels just took the floor. I have not written from a UNLV basketball game since 1998. This should be interesting.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow Kats With The Dish at twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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