Rebels blow Navy out of the water

It finally happened.

The UNLV basketball team put it all together Monday night in the Holiday Classic tournament.

Freddie Banks as on. So were Gerald Paddio and Armon Gilliam and Jarvis Basnight. Even Eldridge Hudson came off the bench and strutted his stuff.

And point guard Mark Wade, who orchestrated the masterpieces, set a school record with 21 assists.

The end result was a 104-79 blowout over Navy, the 12th ranked team with perhaps the Player of the Year in 7-1center David Robinson.

The victory lifts the Rebels’ season record to 11-0 and unquestionably will place an exclamation mark alongside their next No. 1 ranking should they defeat UC Irvine in their league opener home next Saturday.

The United Press International coaches’ poll will be released Tuesday and was voted on before Monday night’s gem against the Midshipmen.

In the consolation game, Idaho State downed Old Dominion, 79-71.

The final score in the title game was a bit misleading because UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian pulled his starters with 4:16 remaining with a 98-63 lead.

“We played hard the whole game,” Tarkanian said afterward. “Our kids really played tonight. God, did we defend the crap out of them. We just played super.”

Gilliam earned his second Most Valuable Player award in two weeks finishing with a team-high 27 points Monday to go along with his career-high 35 point effort Saturday against Old Dominion.

Banks fired in 25 points from long range and Paddio added 19. Basnight had 12 points and Hudson handed out five assists in 16 minutes.

Robinson led Navy with 29 points and nine rebounds.

Banks and Wade were named to all-tournament team. However, Paddio was left off mainly because each team usually has at least one representative out of courtesy.

A fire-hazard crowd 20,321 looked on in the Thomas and Mack Center, which was a 18,500 seating capacity.

Monday’s gathering easily eclipsed the previous record crowd of 19,320 on hand for last Saturday’s game against Old Dominion.

The Rebels sizzled from everywhere on the floor and broke the 100-point barrier for the fourth time in their last five outings. They did it by shooting 57.5 percent (61.5 in the second half) from the field and casing 21 Navy turnovers.

The Middles’ downfall came when Robinson had to sit out the final 11:08 of the first half after picking up his third personal foul.

Navy tried to stay close, but every cog in the Rebels’ machine was working.

UNLV jumped out to a 19-7 lead with 14:05 remaining in the first half, thanks mainly to steals turned into fast breaks.

Gilliam scored seven of the Rebels’ first 14 points and Basight brought the house down with a steal at midcourt that eventually turned into a slam dunk after a fine feed from Wade and a Navy foul.

Then Robinson took charge and scored nine straight points from the Middies, who quickly narrowed the deficit to 21-18 at the 11:41 mark.

Tarkanian called timeout and UNLV proceeded to go on a 12-2 spurt (including 10 straight points) to take command at 33-20.

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