Jerry Tarkanian: UNLV players went in with the idea they were going to whip North Carolina

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Sam Morris

UNLV’s Oscar Bellfield, left, and Mike Moser are mobbed by fans after defeating the University of North Carolina during the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels upset the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels 90-80.

UNLV scores big win against North Carolina

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez celebrates the Rebels' upset of UNC with a court full of fans at the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at the Orleans Arena. UNLV beat the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels 90-80. Launch slideshow »

I was totally stunned.

I thought the UNLV basketball team would play well Saturday, but I honestly didn’t think they would beat North Carolina. Not only did the Rebels beat them, they dominated.

Those kids played with a lot of confidence and took North Carolina out of its game. They didn’t play a typical Roy Williams game. They didn’t get the ball inside. Roy’s teams are famous for getting the ball down low to their big man.

Everyone had the feeling at halftime, when North Carolina was leading by four points, that they were going to make a move in the second half and pull away. But that wasn’t the case. UNLV played so well and didn’t show any signs of backing down.

They weren’t scared at all. They went in with the idea they were going to whip them.

Anytime you beat the No. 1 team in the country it’s a big win. I’m just so happy for David and his team. I visited them in the basketball offices last week and saw how hard everyone is working. Dave is keeping everyone level-headed and getting them ready for every game. He’s been great.

Oscar Bellfield hit that big 3-pointer to open the game and set the tone, and his teammates followed his leadership all night. He has impressed me all year. He’s been playing great. Like a senior is supposed to.

Mike Moser has been a blessing for them. He’s the best transfer in America and a real catch for Dave. Everyone is telling me how the kid is leading the nation in rebounding and you can see why. He goes after every ball.

Someone asked me after the game about when we played North Carolina in the 1977 Final Four. Several people forget we were leading by 12 points in the second half and dominating them before losing by one.

The game changed when Glen Gondrezick accidently elbowed our center Larry Moffett in the nose when going for a rebound. That knocked Larry out of the game and North Carolina stormed back. They eventually went to their four-corners offense to stall and we came up short.

Larry Moffett was probably the most surprising player I had at UNLV. He played so bad in junior college the year before he came to UNLV, and wasn’t even a first-team all-league guy. I had coaches in that league tell me, “Oh God, Tark, he can’t play for you.”

But my assistant, Lynn Archibald, loved him and urged me to take him. He said he would make a better player out of Lewis Brown on the inside. He ended up beating out Lewis Brown because he was able to get up the court so quick.

We probably would have won the whole tournament if we would have beat them. Everyone thought North Carolina and UNLV were the best two teams in the tournament. North Carolina ended up losing in the finals to Marquette.

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