Lighting it Up in the Islands

It was Feb. 19, 1976, and my UNLV teammates and I had flown to the islands for two games. We’d all heard of our second opponent, a tough University of Hawaii team we would be playing two days later, but most of us had never heard a thing about the University of Hawaii-Hilo, a small Division II school. We were just happy being in Hawaii for the first time, trying to hang out on the beaches when the coaches weren’t around. The coaches wanted us to stay focused on practice—no easy task for a bunch of college kids.

I remember the day of the game as we went over to the gym for our morning shootaround. Coach Tarkanian made it very clear that we had to come out and play hard against this team, because he didn’t want us to get embarrassed by a D-2 school.

As we warmed up for the game that night, I turned to a couple of my players and said, “Guys, we have to go hard tonight or the coaches will be mad at us.”

We scored quickly our first few possessions, and then our pressure defense gave Hilo a lot of problems. So we kept the pressure on—and kept scoring … and scoring … and scoring.

At the end of the first half we had 89 points to Hilo’s 39. In the second half, we tried to slow things down, but the second- and third-string players kept up the pressure. By the time it was over, we had scored 164 points—at that time the most ever scored by a college team. (Hilo scored 111, by the way.)

We had lots of fun playing that game—some of our guys scored career highs. I was proud to be the point guard that day—the guy who made sure everyone got their shots. But my teammate Jackie Robinson is still mad at me: He says out of all the points we scored, he only got five or six. But I told him that we were scoring so fast that once he’d inbounded the ball to me and I passed it ahead to someone else, it never came back to us! Oh, and we had enough left in the tank to win that Hawaii game, too, 114-99. Not bad for a trip to paradise.