Augmon rises to occasion as Rebels romp

LONG BEACH, Calif. -----Stacey Augmon emerged from Larry Johnson’s shadow then joined his close friend in a blinding display that left the 9,025 at Long Beach Arena wondering why they conduct a Big West Conference tournament.

For the second time in less than a week, the third-ranked UNLV Rebels dismantled the Cal State Fullerton Titans 115-93 Friday night in a quarterfinal matchup that puts them a step closer to the top seed in the real tourney next week.

Augmon resembled the player who led UNLV to within a game of the Final Four a season ago. His shot was smooth, his defense intense and is movement on the court troublesome for Fullerton star Cedric Ceballos. The junior went to the showers with 23 points, while Johnson tied his season high with 32.

“It’s tournament time,” Augmon said. “I’m a quiet leader on the court. I’ve got to set an example for my teammates and hope they follow. It didn’t bother me about not being on the conference team.

“Everyone has their own eyes and sees what they want to see. I just decided that I’ve been around for a while and it’s time for me to take charge. That’s all I’m going to say about all that.”

UNLV will play Pacific Saturday at 9 p.m. in a semifinal game. The Tigers stunned UC Santa Barbara 65-62, New Mexico State and Cal State Long Beach are in the other semifinal. The championship will be played Sunday at 3 p.m.

“I thought we came out and played great defense early on,” UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said. “We didn’t give them any shots. The ones they had, they made. But here weren’t very many. What bothers me is we let up.

“We can’t seem to sustain our play. I think we need to extend it if were thinking about going a long way in the tournament. We came back out in the second half and played very hard. I’m pleased with the way we played.”

UNLV broke out on top early in a similar fashion in last Saturday’s win over the Titans. The Rebels took a 12-0 lead before Fulleton’s Wayne Williams hit a jumper with 15:19 left in the first half.

The Titans closed to within seven on several occasions, but they never had a serious run after falling behind early. UNLV came out in the second half and scored 42 points in the opening 11 minutes to drive the stake through the Titans’ heart.

Johnson was instrumental in that run. He had a 9-0 run himself, and yanked down 14 rebounds as well in a display that left those at courtside in awe. Moses Scurry came off the bench to add 17. David Butler and Anderson Hunt rounded out the offensive attack for the 27-5 Rebels with 14 and 13, respectively.

“We know now that its tournament time,” Johnson said. “We know if you lose, you go home. The rest we had did us some good. Everybody came out to practice with some fresh legs. We had a lot of fun out there.”

The Titans ended the year with a 14-16 mark. They’ve played the Rebels six times in the last two years, and lost five of them. Ceballos finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but Augmon followed him relentlessly on defense. The senior hit 11 of 11 at the foul line, but made only 6 of 19 from the field.

“We couldn’t stop them tonight,” Ceballos said. “We don’t have the type of game that it takes to beat them. Right now, they are playing very well. They didn’t do anything different against me defensively. I wasn’t thinking about this being my last game. I was just out there concentrating as hard as I could.”

Williams scored 20 points for the Titans, but fell way off in the second half after opening the first in a blaze of glory. With Greg Anthony shadowing Mark Hill, Hunt was left with Wiliams. The sophomore didn’t do that good of a job in the first 20 minutes, but came out in the second half and did a number on Williams.

Once again Butler got into early foul trouble, but was rescued by Scurry, who dropped in 11 points in the first half. Butler got into early foul trouble, but was rescued by Scurry, who dropped in 11 points in the first half. Butler still managed nine rebounds. The Rebels were outrebounded for the fourth straight time.

Fullerton held a 48-44 advantage, but hit only 41 percent from the field. The Rebels countered that by connecting on 52 percent of their shots. They also forced 23 turnovers, while committing only 11 of their own.

“Overall I'm very pleased with the way we played,”Tarkanian said. “All week Stacey (Augmon) set an example at practice at what it takes to win a national championship. The last three days he played extremely well. He took us up a notch. I’m very glad to see that.”

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