The Day the Nation Learned How Rebels Run

Many times I’ve been asked what was the best game I ever played in as a Rebel from 1974-77. As I think back, there were many: the battles with Pepperdine, the tough rivalry matchups with UNR, or going back and forth with the University of Utah. But the one that brings back the fondest memories is the game on March 12, 1977, against the University of San Francisco in the first round of the NCAA tournament. We had finished the regular season 29-2 and averaged 107 points per game, but we weren’t picked to go past the first round. USF had spent much of the year as the No. 1 team in the nation, had lost just once, and was led by the great big man, Bill Cartwright. People were saying we would get blown out and all the talk was starting to make me mad.

The game became one of the biggest challenges of my career, not because it was against a powerhouse team but because all the negative things that were being said about us: We can’t win it, USF has four players who will make it in the NBA, the Rebels aren’t big enough. We heard it all. Some of the things were true: The NBA was looking not only at Cartwright, but also forward James Hardy and guards Winford Boynes and Chubby Cox. They all were great players.

But I felt our team was just as good, if not better.

In the days leading up to the game it was hard to sleep. I wanted to get onto the court to prove that we could play with them. Once the game started, we were all over their players—defensively we were taking them out of their offense, and on offense we were running by them like it was a track meet. In the first half, they began to argue with each other, and I knew then that we had them in trouble. We were up by 19 points at halftime, and in the second half we went up by more than 30. I was having a good game and finished with 14 points, six assists, and three steals. The game was nationally televised, and the TV announcers voted me the most valuable player of the game.

But what was most exciting was the final score: UNLV 121, USF 95. It was a great feeling knowing that we had proven ourselves. And we kept right on proving it, running straight to the Final Four, where we lost to North Carolina, 84-83.

But that’s another story, for another day.