Posted on September 21 2016
UNLV beat Duke 103-73 in the most lopsided NCAA title game ever
By Curry Kirkpatrick
April 9, 1990
Good vs. evil? What about East vs. West? Tobacco Road vs. the Strip? Grits vs. Glitz? Bookworms vs. Croupiers? Blue vs. Red, for God sakes?
Choose any of the sociologically significant polarities enveloping the national championship that you wish, but when the Runnin' (positively Ragin') Rebels of UNLV got finished with poor Duke—Miss vs. Match: The official number was 103-73, if you are keeping track on your keno ticket—they had turned a morality play into astonishing theater of the absurd.
What's more, any minute now in Sin City they will be referring to UNLV's NCAA victory as The Title from the Two Ay, that being what the National Collegiate Athletic Association has become known as around the Rebels' basketball office. Investigators have made 11 visits to the campus in the last nine months during their current probe into charges of academic irregularities and recruiting violations, so it's no wonder the Two Ay has become such an intimate component of university life. And what about all those boos from the UNLV cheering section in Denver's McNichols Arena on Monday night when the chairman of the Two Ay basketball committee, Jim Delaney, was introduced at the awards ceremonies? That just showed that Vegas rooters have healthy eyesight. They undoubtedly saw several of the Two Ay tournament committeemen's faces turn even grimmer than usual as UNLV was scoring 18 unanswered points early in the second half to clinch the championship. "I don't look on this as sweet revenge, just sweet," said Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian, who only last week settled, at an estimated cost to him of $370,000, a lawsuit with the Two Ay that had been festering for 13 years.
"But vindication?" said Tark's wife, Lois. "[Jerry's] vindicated as a coach."
While Duke showed up on Monday night in its characteristic bridesmaid's veil—the Blue Devils now being zero for eight in Final Fours—Tarkanian's swifter, stronger and more confident legions were dressed to kill. They raised their game to a wholly different level. Men vs. Toys? Let's go to the videotape.
The key for Vegas was 6'7", 250-pound junior Larry Johnson, who in only 30 minutes on the court contributed 22 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, two three-pointers and one extraordinary flip-behind-his-back-while-lunging-to-the-floor save of a ball about to go out of bounds. "You were so physical, you fouled me out," shouted Johnson's junior teammate Stacey Augmon (12 points and seven assists in 26 minutes before getting his fifth personal), joking that Johnson's play was so rugged Augmon had, in effect, been one of its victims.
In all, it was the biggest blowout in the history of the championship game. It was not just that Vegas became the first team to score 100 or more points in the final, or that it won by the largest margin ever. That was mere offense in a game in which the Rebels' defense was the story. Duke's skinny freshman point guard,Bobby Hurley, was simply overwhelmed. Harried, surrounded, throwing the ball into the finally humbled Duke band, he behaved like the TV cartoon character Bart Simpson ("Don't have a cow, man") as his coach, Mike Krzyzewski, squirmed on the bench.
The underrated Vegas backcourt of Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony delivered the punishing perimeter defense—"We couldn't get the ball past the hash marks," saidDuke forward Christian Laettner—and, on offense, beat the Blue Devils off the dribble, on the run and every which way for open shots. "It was scary just watching them," said Duke center Alaa Abdelnaby. "They engulfed us."
The normally beleaguered Tark rarely chomped on his omnipresent towel, so easily did UNLV rush to a 21-11 lead. The defense of the Rebels—"Vegas wouldn't let us play well, wouldn't let us function," said Coach K—drove Hurley out of the game with 12:37 left in the first half, whereupon he was replaced first by senior Phil Henderson, who moved over from shooting guard, and then by fellow rookie Bill McCaffrey, who were even less effective.
Just before Vegas took a 47-35 lead at intermission, Duke sophomore Brian Davis made an attempt to slap high fives with Laettner, missed and instead smacked his teammate in the face. It was that kind of rocky night in the Rockies for the team from Durham, N.C.
Welcome fellow scholars said the sarcastic sign that was waved at the UNLV team by the Blue Devil mascot. "We try to draw off that stuff emotionally," said Anthony, the vice-chairman of Las Vegas's Young Republicans, who last summer worked for Nevada Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich in Washington, D.C.
Try? With slightly more than 16 minutes left, UNLV led 57-47. In the next 2:51, the Rebels scored those 18 straight points while Krzyzewski frantically tried to halt the deluge by calling two timeouts. During the run, Hunt, a 6'1"sophomore from Detroit, sank two treys and three other baskets. Previously best known as the rebellious Rebel who had been suspended for a game for being delinquent in making payments on his student loan, Hunt finished with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting and was voted the MVP of the Final Four.
The surprise was that he had none of UNLV's 16 steals. He didn't need any. Duke committed seven more turnovers for a total of 23. "This wasn't a game of X's and O's,"said Krzyzewski. "It was one of complete...domination."