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Tarkanian Wins Again in an Old Haunt, 97-76

Times Staff Writer

Returning to the Cal State Long Beach gym where he had never lost from 1968 to ’73 as coach of the 49ers, Jerry Tarkanian won again Tuesday night.

“I remember some great things about this gym,” the Nevada Las Vegas coach said after the Runnin’ Rebels defeated Long Beach, 97-76, in a Big West Conference game before a crowd of 1,889.

Tarkanian had to wait awhile for his return to the place where he once won 34 straight games. In recent seasons the two teams played at the Long Beach Arena.

What he probably will remember most about Tuesday night’s game will be the shooting of guard Anderson Hunt, who made 5 straight 3-point shots in the second half to break out of a slump and lead the Rebels, who improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big West.

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Going into the game, Hunt had made only 11 of 50 shots from 3-point range.

“I’ve been telling him every game to keep shooting,” Tarkanian said. “Anderson is a great shooter.”

Las Vegas led only 63-53 with 9:54 to play when Hunt got hot, and they had that margin mainly because of Long Beach’s poor foul shooting. At that point, the 49ers had made only 6 of 16 free throws.

But 3 minutes later, following a run that included 4 of Hunt’s long shots, the Rebels were up 78-56.

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The presence of the 12th-ranked Rebels quickly brought out the best in the 49ers. Normally a 39% shooting team from the floor, Long Beach shot 57% in the first half.

“I thought we could have easily walked away at halftime with a tie if we had made our free throws,” said Long Beach Coach Joe Harrington, whose team dropped to 3-7 and 0-1.

With center John Hatten scoring 9 points in the first 5 minutes, Long Beach led, 15-13, until a 3-pointer by Clint Rossum put the Rebels ahead, 15-13. Long Beach was never in front again.

The 49ers tied the game at 20 but at halftime were down, 46-35.

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“Our defense was terrible in the first half,” Tarkanian said. “We kept getting beat individually, and our front line didn’t come to play..”

Tarkanian, known for his devotion to the man-to-man defense, then switched successfully to a zone in the second half. Against it, Long Beach’s shooting dropped to 46%.

“We didn’t run our offense the way we normally run it, so it made their defense look a lot better,” Harrington said.

The 49ers’ press, which bothered Las Vegas last season in 2 games the teams split, had little effect this time.

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“It didn’t bother us,” Tarkanian said.

That didn’t surprise Harrington.

“I knew they had a better team this year in the backcourt,” Harrington said.

Hunt led Las Vegas with 21 points, while center David Butler had 18.

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Hatten scored 17 for the 49ers.


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