Butler serves up a win for Rebels

FRESNO, Calif, - David Butler did everything except hand out the water bottles during the timeouts.

The 6-10 center scored 16 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out six assists in leading ninth-ranked UNLV to an easy 84-75 victory Monday night over Fresno State before a crow of 10,159 at Selland Arena.

Running the high-low post offense to perfection throughout the second half, Butler said he has been losing the respect of many big men around the country because of his not looking for the basket down in the paint.

"So I stepped out and started looking for Larry and the other guys," Butler said. "It's my job to run the high-low offense and to make everybody else look good. Larry only blinked once or twice tonight.

"When they started coming after me, I began to take it to the basket. I was a little frustrated in the first half because I was so open and nobody would get me the ball. But that's OK. We came out and played hard in the second half."

That UNLV did. Leading by six at the half, the Rebels methodically opened up an 18-point lead (77-59 with 6:18 left) by converting turnovers on the fast break and finding Johnson close to the basket.

The 6-7 power forward from Dallas had an excellent scoring night. He finished with 28 points and nine rebounds by hitting 11 of 14 from the field. Butler kept looking for Johnson and Johnson only turned his back on Butler once.

"Early in the second half I turned around and David threw it out of bounds," Johnson said. "I told him it was my fault and I wouldn't turn away from him again. I began to feel guilty getting all those easy baskets.

"I thought about trading with David and letting him get a couple of easy layups. He's a great passer. He sees everything so well. Anybody could have scored 28 tonight who was in my position. David played a great game. Most of his assists were for me."

Butler is still feeling some effects from the flu. He played 36 hard minutes and was fighting mad right down to the final tick of the clock. The Bulldogs cut UNLV's lead to nine (82-73 with 53 seconds left), but there would be no repeat performance of the Temple game.

"These guys started celebrating too early," Tarkanian said. "They just won't let me rest on the bench. I thought it was going to be like the Temple game all over again, when the Rebels' 17-point lead was chopped to two points.

"We really ran our high-low post game well in the second half. David passes the ball so well for a big man. I told our guys to keep their eyes open. You never know when the ball will be coming at you."

Fresno employed a man defense for at least half the game. That strategy played right into the big hands of the Rebels, who raised their record to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big West Conference.

Coupled with New Mexico State's defeat at Cal State Long Beach, UNLV is now tied for first in the league chase. Fresno fell to 6-8 on the year and 1-4 in league. It was not a good night for the Bulldogs.

"We just couldn't match up with them underneath," Fresno State Coach Ron Adams said. "They are so talented across the front. They can muscle you and finesse you. They go after every loose ball with a lot of force."

UNLV outrebounded Fresno 39-20 and hit 59 percent from the field as well. The Rebels also picked up 14 points and five assists from Greg Anthony. Stacey Augmon rounded out the offensive attack with 11.

Augmon also drew Fresno's Tod Bernard on defense. Although he led all Bulldog scorers with 27, he connected on only 9 of 20 from the field. Many of his shots were forced in a stretch in the second half that resulted in UNLV grabbing its biggest lead.

Wilbert Hooker added 19 for Fresno by hitting 6 of 15 from the field. Pat Riddlesprigger added 13 by connecting on 6 of 8.

UNLV played a fairly typical first half. The Rebels hit their first four shots, but had 16 turnovers that kept the game close. Fresno connected on two three-pointers to begin the game, but UNLV ran off 11 unanswered points to hold an 11-6 advantage.

The Rebels kept that lead for most of the first 20 minutes. Augmon and Barry Young got into quick foul trouble. Augmon had three at the eight-minute mark while Young went to the intermission with four.

Tarkanian employed a three guard offense, using Hunt, Anthony and Travis Bice for the final 5:17 of the first half. Fresno took the lead (34-33) at the 4:11 mark on two free throws by Hooker. It was the first time the Bulldogs had led since the 18:00 minute mark.

That was short-lived, however, with Johnson taking charge. He hit a 10-footer that kept the Rebels on top the rest of the way. They led 44-38 by half and appeared in control at that point.

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