NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT : UNLV Barely Breaks Sweat in 74-51 Win

Times Staff Writer

Perhaps it was the late morning starting time that was responsible for the cold shooting of Nevada Las Vegas and Northeast Louisiana in their first-round NCAA tournament game Friday at the Long Beach Arena.

In any event, there were 43 missed shots in the first half. Northeast Louisiana shot only 25% from the field, and UNLV wasn't much better at 39.5%.

But the Indians from the Southland Conference never found the range and took a physical beating from the Rebels, who won, 74-51, in a game that was even more one-sided than the score indicates.

Nevada Las Vegas will play Maryland in a second-round game Sunday starting at 4:37 p.m.

"We usually shoot extremely well against everyone we play," said Mike Vining, the Northeast Louisiana coach whose team was shooting 51% going into the tournament. "But they shut us down. They gave us a physical pounding and that took its toll at the end."

The Indians (20-10) didn't have the size or the depth to stay with the Rebels (32-4), who started out slowly but led at halftime, 31-21.

That 10-point bulge soon grew to 24 in the second half, and reserves from both teams then had the run of the floor in what amounted to little more than a scrimmage.

To Northeast's credit, it passed the ball crisply at the start of the game and got some good shots that just didn't fall. The Indians also went 10 minutes without a basket during one stretch in the first half.

The Rebels were led by forward Anthony Jones, who made 9 of 16 shots for 18 points. Forward Armon Gilliam scored 16 points.

Nevada Las Vegas, which had a considerable size advantage over Northeast Louisiana, outrebounded the Indians, 43-30.

"We started out cold, but we got the ball where we wanted to," UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "We've been a man-to-man team on defense most of the year, but we worked on our zone in practice recently and used it today most of the time. We've had difficulty defending against big people and that's why we've been using the zone."

Tarkanian didn't have to worry about defending against any big people Friday since the Indians' center, Bobby Jenkins, is a 6-6 converted forward. But Tarkanian figures to use that alignment when necessary if his team survives in the tournament.

Nevada Las Vegas beat Maryland in overtime earlier in the season, 64-63, but Tarkanian said that the Terrapins are now a much better team.

"Maryland was unsettled then, and Lefty (Driesell) didn't know who his guards were," Tarkanian said.

Tarkanian doesn't believe that he's carrying the burden of Western basketball on his shoulders in the tournament.

"It's more important that we represent Nevada Las Vegas and the PCAA," he said.

The game was such a yawner that Tarkanian didn't even chew on the traditional towel that he always has with him at games.

The towel will come into play Sunday.

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