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August 22, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 5: Rebels ship Robinson, Navy home

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

The Mack was rocking just before 1986 gave way to 1987.

On Dec. 29, 1986, top-ranked UNLV played host to 12th-ranked Navy and superstar center David Robinson, and it was no contest.

Records fell as the Rebels slammed the Midshipmen, 104-79.

An audience of 20,321, described as a “fire-hazard crowd” by the Sun in a building that seats 18,500, still stands as the seam-busting record.

“One of the worst Naval defeats since Pearl Harbor,” wrote a Sun scribe who might have lacked some tact.

In addition, Mark Wade gave out 21 assists that still stand as a school record.

Armon Gilliam scored 27 points, Freddie Banks had 25 and Gerald Paddio tallied 19.

“We played hard the whole game,” coach Jerry Tarkanian said afterward. “Our kids really played tonight. God, did we defend the crap out of them. We just played super.”

Robinson, the 7-foot-1 center who went on to fame with the San Antonio Spurs, went 2-for-8 from the floor and played less than nine minutes.

Tarkanian recently recalled that game.

“I remember it because we were really running well with Mark Wade,” he said. “We beat them bad. David Robinson got into foul trouble.”

Navy coach Peter Herrmann “was steaming,” according to the Sun’s game story, when Robinson was whistled for his second foul, an apparently clean block of a Gilliam jumper.

“Their coach was so mad,” Tarkanian said. “He thought they called it too close. Obviously, from where I was sitting, I was happy.”

Tarkanian has vivid memories of what happened off the court, too.

UNLV president Robert Maxson, who played a major role in Tarkanian’s exit from the Rebels, walked to the floor as the team warmed up.

“He wanted us to stand together for a picture,” Tarkanian said. “It was the biggest crowd ever, he said. And he wanted people to see that we were together, united.

“I said, that’s fine. Sure. My friends Chuck Thompson and Freddie Glusman got madder than hell. They said, why’d you tell that (bleep) hole that? I said, He’s the college president! I wanted it to seem like we were together.”

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