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April 17, 2014

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Larry shows a little extra

Johnson keys Rebels’ 122-75 win

LONG BEACH, Calif.--When Larry Johnson’s name is called early in the 1991 NBA draft June 26, they’ll show a lot of highlights from UNLV’s 122-75 win over Cal State Long Beach Monday night.

As the crowd applauds Johnson’s selection, the screen will probably show a couple of those dunk-under layins, those Joe Montana-style (or is it Warren Moon style?) length-of-the-court outlet passes and those fierce, intimidating rebounds.

And as those assembled in the Javits Convention Center ooh and ahh, Johnson will stand next to NBA commissioner David Stern with some sorry team’s hat on his head and smile that pleasant, easy-going smile.

Johnson showed the nation Monday why he is capable of dominating a game and why he figures to be one of---if not the—top pick in the draft. He simply took it at an outclassed Long Beach team as if to say, “Boys, this is how it’s done in the big time.”

Johnson scored 34 points, one shy of his career high set in December against Michigan State. When he left with 7:58 to go, the Rebels were comfortably ahead 94-55.

“Larry was sensational,” UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said of Johnson’s performance, which included 15 rebounds. “I’ve never been around a superstar who is so unselfish. It’s contagious the way Larry is unselfish. It rubs off on the rest of the guys.”

Johnson said his big game could be credited to the play of the UNLV guards, Anderson Hunt, who finished with 25 points and Greg Anthony, who had 11, opened things up inside after the 49ers had to check them closer than originally planned.

“When Greg and Anderson hit their shots early, it opened things up or me inside,” Johnson said. “We ran a double low post against their zone and it created a lot of one-on-one opportunities for me, so it was easy.”

And when he was done working, Johnson exhorted his teammates on, being the first up from the bench to lead the cheers. He never worries about the numbers. As he likes to say, winning takes care of any math.

“I had no idea,” he said. When he told he as one shy of his career best. “You know I never worry about that kind of stuff.”

Speaking of math, Long Beach Coach Seth Greenburg needs a refresher course in geometry. His triangle-and-two-defense, which was supposed to keep Johnson in check, failed miserably,

The 49ers were supposed to pack the triangle zone in deep, thereby preventing Johnson from operating down low.

Instead, Johnson outworked the 49ers for position played his usual game, which is hit the offensive glass and take it back up strong.

“Great bleeping defense, huh?” Greenberg admitted stopping Johnson was too tall a task for his team,” which fell to 9-14 overall, 5-9 in the Big West.

“What do you say? The guy’s a monster,” Greenberg said of Johnson. “He’s got incredible strength, great hands and he works hard. I can say anything about him that already hasn’t been said.”

The 23-0 Rebels, who remain atop the Big West at 14-0 as well as the polls could probably earn an NBA playoff bid at this point, started the game with a 16-1 run. A run, incidentally that didn’t include Johnson on the score sheet.

Johnson’s first points didn’t come until 14:41 when he banked a shot home in the key. He really didn’t get going until midway through the half when he drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key, hit a reverse layup off a nice feed from Hunt, then converted a three-point play after being fouled in making yet another layup.

He had 22 points at the half and 34 with 12:40 to play in the second half. He never got another shot opportunity after that, but it was still a pretty full evening.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Tarkanian said. “Larry takes a shot early and misses it and he doesn’t take short for another six minutes. He’s just so talented.”

“But at this point, that’s a given.”

Rebels notes

In addition to Johnson, Hunt and Anthony, Stacey Augmon was in double figures with 15 points, as was Melvin Love, who posted a career-high 10 points in nine minutes of garbage time. …UNLV shot an impressive 64 percent from the floor while limiting Long Beach to just 38 percent. Lucious Harris led the 49ers with 28 points. …Several of the Los Angeles Clippers were on hand Monday night including Danny Manning and Ron Harper.

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