PCAA Tournament : This Party Has Its Share of Blowouts in 1st Round

Times Staff Writer

If you were looking for a great place to bite your nails, sweat a few bullets or even chew on a towel or two, the Forum wasn't the place to be Thursday.

The Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. opened its postseason basketball tournament, but except for a few moments in the evening's finale, there wasn't too much suspense to be found in the early games. Top-seeded Nevada Las Vegas, Cal State Fullerton and San Jose State all advanced to Friday's semifinal round with lopsided wins, and Fresno State finally came through as expected.

UNLV, ranked 10th (United Press International) and 11th (the Associated Press) in the country, moved ahead easily with a 89-58 win over the University of Pacific.

The 31-point victory margin would have broken the old PCAA tournament record for point differential, but San Jose State had done that earlier in the day by defeating Utah State by 36 points, 92-56.

In a comparative cliff-hanger, Cal State Fullerton defeated UC Irvine by 11 points, 79-68, and Fresno State wound up first-round play by turning back UC Santa Barbara, 56-50.

The UNLV rout took no one by surprise, not even the Rebels' ever-worrying coach, Jerry Tarkanian.

"We've just got better kids than they do," said Tarkanian, so relaxed that he only took a couple nibbles on his towel the entire game.

UNLV took a 15-3 lead early and only had to withstand one first-half rally by Pacific before burying the Tigers.

Pacific, seeded last in the tournament, cut the lead to 24-22 with 8:13 left on a basket by J.R. Richardson, but two quick baskets by Rebels' center Richie Adams put UNLV back in control for good.

The easy game gave Tarkanian a chance to rest Adams', who Thursday was named the PCAA's Player of the Year for the second straight season.

Adams, who is playing with ligament damage in his right knee, played only 24 minutes against Pacific but still had 16 points and 8 rebounds.

Because of the injury, suffered last December, Adams has only participated in only 15 UNLV practices.

"Adams is sensational," Tarkanian said. "I don't know how a guy can play well when he doesn't even practice . . . it's amazing that he can be physically ready to play every game. It's a tribute to what a great athlete he is."

Anthony Jones led Las Vegas (25-3 overall) with 17 points. Domingo Rosario led Pacific with 13 points.

San Jose State 92, Utah State 56--And to think these teams split their regular-season games and finished with identical 10-8 PCAA records.

"Our intensity in the first few minutes was embarrassing," Utah State Coach Rod Tueller said. "We were afraid to shoot the ball."

The Aggies' intensity or shooting the remainder of the game wasn't any better.

Utah State, which warmed up for the tournament by shooting 66% from the field in its last two games, shot 28% against the Spartans.

Wednesday night at the PCAA banquet, Tueller joked about his team having to play the early game of the tournament.

"We're going to start the first five guys who wake up," he said.

Apparently, Tueller forgot to leave a wake-up call.

The Spartans, using a tough man-to-man defense to open the game, opened an early 10-0 lead and were never challenged after that.

San Jose State held the Aggies to 27 points below their season scoring average.

"Anytime you hold them under 60 points you're doing a great job on defense or they're cold," Spartan Coach Bill Berry said. "I think it was a combination of both."

Berry got a big game out of freshman forward Reggie Owens, the PCAA Freshman of the Year, who had 23 points and 7 rebounds.

The Aggies were led by forward Greg Grant and guard Vince Washington, who scored 16 points each. But Grant made just 5 of 13 shots from the field while Washington could make just 6 of 18.

Fresno State 56, UC Santa Barbara 50--In the best game of the first round, the Bulldogs downed the Gauchos to advance to the semifinals. Forward Jos Kuipers made two free throws with 55 seconds left to help the Bulldogs avoid a major upset.

Fresno State, seeded No. 2 and the defending tournament champion, will play Cal State Fullerton tonight at 9 p.m. UNLV will meet San Jose State in a 7 p.m. semifinal game.

PCAA Notes PCAA Player of the Year Richie Adams, a 6-9 senior, averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds in leading UNLV to a 17-1 conference record. His coach, Jerry Tarkanian, was named Coach of the Year. The PCAA's first team: Richie Adams (UNLV), Tony Neal (Cal State Fullerton), Kevin Henderson (Cal State Fullerton), Tod Murphy (UC Irvine), Greg Grant (Utah State), Mitch Arnold (Fresno State). The second team: Scott Fisher (UC Santa Barbara), Johnny Rogers (UC Irvine), Scott Barnes (Fresno State), Reggie Owens (San Jose State), Vince Washington (Utah State).

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