Rebels respond to a Tark attack at intermission

SAN JOSE, Calif - David Butler Larry Johnson and Moses Scurry don't scare easily.

The big three of NLV are usually the baddest bears in the woods. But during halftime of Saturday's Big West Conference game with San Jose State, they cowered in the UNLV locker room as Jerry Tarkanian delivered a sermon that left them shaking in their Nikes.

Butler and Johnson responded to his challenge that the 10th ranked Rebels weren't playing hard enough before a sellout crowd of 4,595 in the Student Union Recreation and Events Center. Butler scored nine points in a hurry, while Johnson swept the glass clean en route to leading UNLV to a 100-80 win over the pesky Spartans.

"At the half, Coach called us every name in the book," Johnson said. The Rebels have now won five straight to raise their overall record to 9-2 and conference mark to 4-0. San Jose State fell to 4-8 and 1-2, respectively.

"I've never seen him like that," Johnson continued. "He said we weren't playing with any pride on defense. I can't speak for anybody else, but I was a little scared. He wasn't a happy coach."

Tarkanian was all smiles after the 20-point win that could have been 30 or more had he not lifted his starters so soon in the second half. Upon hearing Johnson's remarks, Tarkanian let loose an ear-to-ear grin.

"That's good," Tarkanian said. "That means my message was getting through. I wasn't pleased with our defense at all in the first half. I told them they had to have a little more pride in the way they were playing.

"I could tell by the way we were warming up that we weren't into this game. They looked so lackluster. That changed in the second half. We really got after them down low."

Actually, Butler got after the Spartans by scoring nine of the first 13 points of the second half. Recovering from root canal surgery last Thursday, the 6-10 big man said he felt a little sluggish at times. He led the Rebels with 19 points by hitting 8 of 10 from the field against the smaller Spartans.

"Coach told us to work it inside to the five spot and that's me," Butler said. "We should have been doing it more in the first half but we were a little flat. We got after them in the second."

"I was feeling a little tired. That surgery wasn't any fun. Coach started Moses because if you're a starter and miss practice then you miss the next start. I've been coaching MO lately and he had a good game. Now I've got to work on Stacey (Augmon)."

Nobody had to do too much coaching in the final 20 minutes. The Rebels gradually opened up a 26-point lead (98-72) with superior shooting and rebounding. UNLV hit 55 percent of its shots from the field and 77 percent at the foul line.

Johnson went to the showers with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Greg Anthony finished with 13, Scurry added 12 and Augmon finished with 10 points and four boards. Scurry was second in rebounding with five.

"This was the first time I felt comfortable on the court," Scurry conceded. "Coach really got after us during the half. He said we weren’t playing well and I guess we weren't."

"It doesn't matter to me whether I start because I'm used to coming off the bench. It's tough getting up for a team like this. I'm not saying they're bad. But it's not like playing Arkansas or anybody like that."

San Jose State played hard throughout the first half and even made up a nine-point deficit to take a 26-24 lead with 7:23 remaining. The 11-point run was the last hurrah, however, as the Rebels ran out to a 10-point advantage at the half.

"UNLV is just an outstanding basketball team," San Jose State Coach Stan Morrison said. "I would pay money to watch their practices. He has two great teams. To watch them of after each other day after day must really be something.

"I was proud of the effort our kids gave. They can actually tell their grandkids 10 or 14 years from now how hard they played. I thought our double screens were working pretty good. But it's tough when a guy 6-2 is going up against a guy 6-7."

Kenney Young led all scorers with 23 points and eight rebounds for the Spartans. He played an excellent game against UNLV's Johnson. Freshman guard Terry Cannon added 14 while three-man Troy Batiste finished with 12.

For one of the rare times this year, the Spartans turned the ball over more than their opponents and lost the battle at the free-throw line as well. The Spartans had 21 turnovers while the Rebels finished with 17. UNLV outshot them at the foul line, 24-18.

"Those were two areas that I thought we had to win in order to keep it close," Morrison said. "The stats say we were even in rebounds (36-36) but that can't be right. I'm still proud of what we accomplished. We could have quit several times, but we never did."

Unfortunately for Morrison, neither did UNLV. And the Rebels can thank Tarkanian for that. Had they quit, it would have been a long flight to Las Cruces, N.M., for Monday night's game with New Mexico State.

"I know I wouldn't have sat anywhere near Coach," Scurry said. I'm not sure I want to sit next to him yet."

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