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Next Up: UNLV Faces Georgetown : West Regional: Wrong jersey number helps Rebels do number on Montana, 99-65. Hoyas get past Vanderbilt, 70-60, to set up showdown.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Great Equation lives:

UNLV vs. Georgetown.

An upset? Another Vegas blowout? Pray tell, a non-yawner?

America discovers the answer soon enough, thanks mainly to UNLV’s 99-65 victory Friday night against the overmatched but well-intentioned Montana Grizzlies, the little 16th-seeded team that couldn’t.

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Then again, no one else has, either.

The Rebels’ second-round opponent Sunday will be none other than once mighty, but always dangerous Georgetown, which defeated Vanderbilt, 70-60, earlier in the night at the McKale Center. The Hoya victory wasn’t attractive, but Georgetown games rarely are.

Like most Hoya victories, this one featured plenty of 6-foot-10 Alonzo Mourning and 7-2 Dikembe Mutombo, two of the more imposing players in college basketball. Mourning had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Mutombo, who didn’t know where “VanderVilt” was located, added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The play of Mutombo and Mourning isn’t exactly stop-the-presses stuff, but Georgetown’s shooting percentage is worth mentioning. For only the fifth time in 31 games, the Hoyas shot better than 50% from the field. Usually there are bruise marks on the rim from Georgetown clankers, but not this time. Even two of the three Hoya freshman starters shot well.

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The ninth-seeded Commodores couldn’t understand how it happened. All the game film they saw of eighth-seeded Georgetown included plenty of footage of missed shots.

“Not only did their big men play well, but their guards shot well,” said Vandy guard Scott Draud, a tinge of disbelief in his voice.

Said Georgetown Coach John Thompson: “If they shoot the way they shot (Friday), then everything falls into place.”

And if it doesn’t? Thompson isn’t prepared to discuss the possibilities yet.

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“We kept talking, Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt,” he said. “I was afraid. You don’t want to play (the Commodores) with an inexperienced team. Vegas, you don’t want to play with any team.”

The Rebels’ path to the second round of the tournament wasn’t half as hard as the one Georgetown traveled. The Hoyas led by 10 at halftime, blew the lead and actually trailed with less than 15 minutes. But order was restored and the Hoyas breezed.

UNLV had no such difficulties. The Rebels started slowly, but were helped early by an unusual call that turned a three-point lead into a seven-point edge. The turnaround came when Montana forward Nate Atchison was caught wearing an incorrect jersey number. Apparently, team managers packed his uniform in the wrong bag.

Two technical foul shots were awarded and made by UNLV. The Rebels also scored on the next possession.

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After that, UNLV did what it has done to 30 other teams this season--crush them. The Vegas halftime advantage was 48-32, and had Montana not shot 55.6% from the field, the score could have been worse.

About the only negative development was an injury to center George Ackles. He suffered a minor sprain on the top of his left foot, but is expected to play Sunday.

Four Las Vegas players finished in double figures, including forward Larry Johnson, who had 23 points and nine rebounds.

Montana was led by freshman guard Gary Kane’s 15 points. Kevin Kearney, who entered the game as the team’s leading scorer, was five for 13 and had 13 points.

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“I’d get past one (UNLV defender) and there’d be another one waiting,” he said.

UNLV faces the team Coach Jerry Tarkanian has fretted about since the NCAA pairings were announced last Sunday. He worries about the size of Mutombo and Mourning. He worries about Thompson. He worries about Georgetown’s ability to control tempo.

Of course, Tarkanian will get no argument from Vanderbilt Coach Eddie Fogler, who saw firsthand what the Hoyas can do.

“A very difficult team to play against,” Fogler said.

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