The last three times Cal State Fullerton and Nevada Las Vegas have met on a basketball court, the underdog Titans have played up to the Rebels' level, winning once and losing twice in overtime.
Monday night, in front of 14,200 at the Thomas and Mack Center, Fullerton wasn't able to put up such a good fight, with the exception of a brief sparring session between Fullerton's Gary Moeller and UNLV's Eldridge Hudson that had to be ruled a draw since nobody managed to connect.
The Rebels KO'd the Titans early in the main event, however, running away with an 83-69 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. win. It was UNLV's 12th straight victory and boosted its overall record to 13-2 and conference mark to 6-0. Fullerton is 7-8 and 3-3.
Moeller and the Rebels' Richard Robinson were ejected after Moeller gave Robinson a little push and Robinson retaliated with a big shove. Hudson ran over to tell Moeller he was very displeased with what he'd done and the two yelled at each other while little official Mark Reischling was sandwiched between them.
Reischling finally got an arm free to indicate he was ejecting Moeller and when he turned to inform the official scorer, Hudson and Moeller took a couple of half-hearted swings. Las Vegas assistant coach Tim Grgurich, with the help of a fan, managed to usher Hudson toward the sideline while Moeller walked back to the Fullerton bench laughing.
It was the only thing the Titans had to laugh about this time around. Fullerton's passing seemed to amuse the Rebels, who had numerous opportunities to show off their dunking skills, thanks to a slew of errant passes turned into Las Vegas breakaways.
Rebel Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who admitted he was worried about his players' attitudes after last Saturday's emotional two-point win over Maryland, was pleased with what he saw.
"I was afraid we might have a letdown after the Maryland game, but we played very hard," he said. "The Maryland game was great for the program and great for the community, but this game was more important because it was a conference game.
"We didn't shoot too well in the first half, but we played good defense all night."
Every Rebel got a chance to play and four of them scored in double figures led by Richie Adams, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Fullerton's Tony Neal had an even better night--25 points and 17 rebounds--but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome the talent-laden Rebels.
"They thoroughly kicked our butts in every way imaginable," Fullerton Coach George McQuarn said. "They dominated every facet of the game. I'll tell you, this just reaffirms in my mind that UNLV is so much better than any other team in the conference.
"Tarkanian's only problem is getting his players up for each opponent. You're talking superior athletes at every position."
Fullerton has the most experienced pugilist, anyway. Moeller was involved in a bout against now-graduated Paul Brozovich here last year. Hudson, who was redshirting and not even in uniform, came off the end of the bench and tried to get into that altercation.
"This is the second year for Moeller," Tarkanian said. "I don't know if he thinks he's Rocky Marciano or what. Robinson is the last guy in the world who'd get in a fight. Hudson, of course, is always looking for a fight."
Fullerton, however, wasn't able to give the Rebels much of one on this evening. The Titans spent a good portion of the first half watching the Rebels steal their passes. Fullerton had 13 first-half turnovers and about half of those were bad passes that ended up being jammed through the hoop at the other end of the floor.
The Titans didn't score a field goal in the first six minutes and were trailing, 13-4, after Neal hit a baseline jumper to break the drought. It could have been a larger deficit, but the Rebels only shot 34% in the first half.
McQuarn called a time out with less than 90 seconds gone in the game, but the Titans had already committed four turnovers (three were bad passes) and gotten off just one ill-advised shot that didn't come close.
"The myth is that UNLV doesn't play defense," McQuarn said. "But the truth is that UNLV plays the best defense in this league, better than Fresno State."
Fullerton went on a mini-spree and closed to within five points, but the Rebels' superior rebounding began to take its toll and Las Vegas steadily pulled away to a 38-26 halftime advantage. The Rebels outrebounded the Titans, 32-17, in the first half.
Fred Banks (two) and Anthony Jones (one) found the three-point range early in the second half and the Rebels extended their lead to 21 points (57-36). There were still almost 13 minutes left, but it might as well have been 13 seconds.
The beleaguered Titans were not up to making a run against Tarkanian's fresh troops. Only six Titans played more than 12 minutes, while eight Rebels saw at least 15 minutes of action. Only two Las Vegas players failed to score.