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September 2, 2014

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Stacey stays focused

Rebels, Augmon avoid getting in rut

With the entire college basketball world trying to hype a game that is still a week away from being played, leave it to a veteran like Stacey Augmon to keep a team ‘s focus on where it should be--in the present.

Augmon, UNLV’s outstanding senior forward, registered the Rebels’ first triple-double in more than two years Sunday, scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists in leading the nation’s No. 1 team past Rutgers 115-73.

The soft-spoken leader of the 18-0 Rebels isn’t letting all the talk about this coming Sunday’s showdown with No. 2 Arkansas interfere with the business at hand. And Sunday, he got down to business in a hurry against a Scarlet Knights team that was riding high with a six-game winning streak.

He took Rutgers’ Daryl Smith to school with frightening regularity, going inside to score or spotting up from the perimeter. He looked for Anderson Hunt, who had a season-high 29 points, or Larry Johnson, finding them with a pinpoint passes. And he helped Johnson, George Ackles and Elmore Spencer on the glass, going up strong and not backing down against a Rutgers team that tried to match the physical Rebels shot for shot under the boards.

Basically, whatever a person is supposed to do on a basketball court, Augmon did it to near-perfection.

“Things just rolled for me from the start,” Augmon said of his best outing of the year. “ A lot of the players gave it up for me today.”

That unselfishness, which is this team’s trademark, was evident from the outset. Rutgers tried to rebound with the Rebels and when Bob Wenzl’s team found it wasn’t going to win that battle, UNLV found itself getting easy baskets in transition.

Eventually Rutgers had to adjust, but the damage had long been done. UNLV used 12-2 run to go up 21-12 and after Rutgers managed a slight comeback, Augmon led a 17-7 spurt to put UNLV ahead 47-31. In that sequence, was a tremendous bank shot in the key by Augmon with three Scarlet Knights hanging all over him. He threw up a rainbow that kissed the glass and went in, sending the 18,895 Thomas and Mack Center denizens into a frenzy.

All UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian could do was lean back in his chair, place his clasped hands on top of his head and enjoy the show.

“I thought Stacey was sensational,” Tarkanian said. “His first half was as good as anyone can play.”

At intermission, with UNLV comfortably ahead 57-39, Augmon had 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He played only 25 minutes up the team’s first triple-double since he did it against Providence in 1988.

Tarkanian said of Augmon: “He ran the floor. He shot well. He passed well. He defended. Every part of Stacey’s game came out today. HE did it all.”

Augmon credited the effort by the entire team for his success.

“Everybody was working together,” he said. “Everyone was playing hard.”

Meanwhile, Augmon’s teammates were impressed by the numbers on the score sheet, which included three blocked shots.

“I was on the bench watching Ice,” Evric Gray said of Augmon. “Someone told me he was working on a triple-double so when I got out there with him, I started to look for him. He’s always looking for us.”

Hunt agreed.

“People don’t give Stacey credit for having an all-around game,” Hunt said of Augmon. “They just see him as a defensive player. I think he proved today he can do more than just guard somebody.”

Center George Ackles was happy for Augmon and his big day.

“What can you say? The man had a triple-double. He was on,” Ackles said. “I think coming home had a lot to do with it. It was a tough road trip.”

The Rebels had played four games in 11 days and had not been on the Thomas and Mack floor since Jan. 19.

“I think we were all glad to get home,” Ackles said.

Apparently so. In addition to their domination offensively, the Rebels frustrated Rutgers into 20 turnovers, 35 percent shooting from the floor (just 26 percent in the second half) and Johnson clamped down on Scarlet Knights star Keith Hughes, holding him to just 12 points, eight below his average.

“Once again, I’m extremely proud of the way our kids played,” Tarkanian said. “They played so well defensively. I do think Rutgers got a good shot at the second half.”

Wenzel, whose Rutgers team had less than 24 hours to prepare for UNLV after winning a big Atlantic Conference game from Temple Friday night said it was a tough assignment.

“We needed a week and half just to figure out what the hell we could do,” he said. They’re a terrific team.”

Led by a terrific all-around player who won’t start thinking about Arkansas until after the Rebels have dealt with Big West conference foe Fresno State Thursday night.

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