Loyola Marymount met its match Sunday, largely because Nevada Las Vegas' Stacey Augmon met his mismatch.
At first it was Tony Walker. Later it was Bo Kimble. Often, it was whoever was bold enough or close enough to try, sometimes two at a time.
The Loyola players who could match Augmon's 6-foot-8 height couldn't match his quickness. The quicker ones couldn't match his height. And in the open court, UNLV teammate Larry Johnson says, "one-on-one, nobody can stop Stacey."
Augmon, who finished with 33 points, scored the first basket of the Runnin' Rebels' 131-101 victory in the NCAA West Regional final on a nine-foot jumper 11 seconds into the game. By halftime, he had scored 25 points, with three assists and a steal. By halftime, the Runnin' Rebels were up by 20, and well on their way to continuing their run at the national championship.
Johnson, in his mock-grudging manner, turned to admire Augmon after the game.
"He played all right," Johnson said.
Augmon laughed, knowing better. Loyola knew better as well.
"Sometimes you make defensive errors and sometimes the offense just does exactly what you can't handle," said Coach Paul Westhead. "Had Augmon gone to the rim, we would have gotten some charges. He took it hard and pulled up about eight feet out and took some nice soft jump shots, which is perfect for him."
Kimble, who had a friendly phone conversation with Augmon the night before the game, admired Augmon's game.
"Stacey is the type of player who is at his best going to the basket," Kimble said. "He took a lot of short jump shots and bank shots today, and he hit a lot of them. Also, he is an excellent offensive rebounder. For a man of his size, he has very quick feet."
Augmon has become known as a defensive specialist, but the junior out of Pasadena Muir High School was a scorer on Sunday.
"They can put my offense down, but I find some way to put it in the hole," Augmon said. "That's my label, let it be, but I'll surprise a lot of people."
Augmon was near his best during the 64 seconds that undid Loyola, a furious 13-0 run in the first half that turned a flimsy four-point lead into 17.
With 4:53 left in the first half and UNLV trying to hold onto a 43-39 lead, Augmon went to the line after being fouled by Jeff Fryer, and made both free throws.
Nineteen seconds later, Greg Anthony made a three-point basket off a pass from Augmon.
Nine seconds later, Augmon made a steal at Loyola's end and passed downcourt to Anthony, who was fouled on the layup and added a free throw.
Sixteen seconds later, Augmon was on the receiving end of a breakaway, and he too made the layup, drawing a foul and adding a free throw.
Twenty seconds later, Johnson scored off an offensive rebound, and UNLV led, 56-39.
The words All-American came up often after Augmon's performance, and that was because he is not one.
After making the U.S. Olympic team in 1988, he was considered the best defensive player in the country. He was the player of the year in the Big West Conference last season, and an honorable mention All-American.
This season, he was a guy who averaged 13 points a game for the Rebels during the regular season.
"If there's a spokesman on this team, somebody who motivates us, it's him," Johnson said. "He is the one who has given up the most for this team."
Since the end of the regular season, Augmon has played superbly.
He scored more than 20 points in a game only twice before the NCAA tournament, but in the Rebels' four games he has averaged 19. And that despite getting only six against Ohio State.
After his game against Loyola, he was chosen the West Regional's most outstanding player. He scored 20 points against Ball State in the semifinals, and had 33 on 13-of-20 shooting Sunday, along with 11 rebounds, six assists, a blocked shot and two steals.
When he left the court for the last time, with UNLV's victory long assured, Coach Jerry Tarkanian took him aside.
"You were an All-American today," Tarkanian told him. "You played as well as a forward can possibly play."
"Stacey Augmon is an All-American in every way. At 6-8 and 206, he has that long body which gives you a great target down low--and with his great hands and body balance he is just outstanding. It has been great playing with him all year, but he was just super today. He carried us."