As a sellout crowd funneled into Cox Pavilion to watch a matchup of national prep powers Findlay Prep and Bishop Gorman on Jan. 21, an earlier game between Coronado and Foothill high schools was in overtime. That’s when Coronado’s Teyshawn Campbell took everyone’s mind off Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad and Findlay’s Anthony Bennett—both coveted UNLV recruits—and the night’s upcoming collegiate contest between UNLV and New Mexico. With time expiring, Campbell released a shot from just inside half court, and it banked in to give Coronado a 75-72 victory. It was just the beginning of the day’s basketball feast, and already it had proven unforgettable.
Tickets for Findlay-Gorman, which was televised nationally by ESPNU, were going for more than $100 apiece on StubHub.com a day before the game, and notables in attendance included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian.
But the star attraction was still Muhammad, the top-ranked senior in the country and No. 1 on the wish list of every Rebel fan. He was held to a quiet 19 points as Findlay took control in the second half on its way to a 73-61 victory. The game didn’t live up to last year’s double-overtime thriller between the teams, but it featured more athleticism than many college contests.
Three hours remained before the main attraction—UNLV’s 7:15 game against the Lobos at the Thomas & Mack Center—and the PT’s Pub down the street seemed a good place to limber up. Within an hour, the first chant of Rebbb-elllls was unleashed as TVs showed top-ranked Syracuse losing its first game of the season. By 6 p.m., the bar was packed with red-clad fans, and the Rebel cheer started to sound more like a drunken bellow.
The lubed-up Rebel rooters crossed the street, cleared their heads, took their place among 18,577 fans at the Thomas & Mack—and got even louder. Seven minutes into the second half, when Anthony Marshall scored to give UNLV a 14-point lead, the place sounded a whole lot like 1990. By the time the Rebels had wrapped up an 80-63 victory and fans headed for their cars (or their bars), it was hard to imagine that any city in the nation had had a better day of basketball.