Wolf Pack on top of Silver State | RecordCourier.com

Wolf Pack on top of Silver State

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball team sure knows how to throw a party. UNLV in town. Michael Buffer at the microphone. Every seat filled at Lawlor Events Center. Cam Oliver flying through the air like Superman, dunking and swinging on the rim. D.J. Fenner acting like Steph Curry. Sweet Battle Born uniforms. Blowout victory over your hated rival. UNLV playing the role of the Washington Generals. Vince McMahon couldn't have staged a more perfect event. The Wolf Pack was supposed to play a college basketball game on Wednesday but a pro wrestling event broke out. The outcome surprised nobody. It was the best Reno night of entertainment since Frank Sinatra played the Sky Room at The Mapes.

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It only took the Wolf Pack 55 years and 83 games but they finally found a way to score 100 points against UNLV and beat them by more than 20 (104-77). That alone makes for a fun evening but it didn't have much drama. The next time Buffer works a Rebels' game at Thomas & Mack Center he should look at the UNLV bench, scream out, "Let's get ready to crumble," drop the mike and walk off the court. The Pack could have put five traffic cones on the Lawlor court, dressed them in a Rebel jersey and would have had more trouble scoring than they did on Wednesday. Traffic cones don't move out of the way and let you stroll to the basket. If you simply love beating the Las Vegas arrogance out of the Rebels, then Wednesday night is your greatest Wolf Pack victory out of the 24 times they've won in this rivalry. But if you love competitive basketball, with meaningful and memorable plays, this one ranks about 20th out of the 24.

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The best Pack win over UNLV? Well, everyone has their favorite. But victory is sweetest when you beat someone at their best. That UNLV team on Wednesday had fewer legitimate Division I players than Findlay Prep and Bishop Gorman. The Pack has only beaten one Rebel team that eventually went to the NCAA tournament. That took place on Nov. 23, 1984 at Lawlor. The Wolf Pack and coach Sonny Allen beat the Rebels 97-89 in front of 11,125 fans. The Rebels, ranked 11th in the nation going into the game, had Freddie Banks and Armon Gilliam. And, yes, coach Jerry Tarkanian, who was 10-0 against the Pack heading into the game. The Pack, which had Curtis High, Dwyane Randall, Tony Sommers and Rob Harden, would go on to the NCAA Tournament later that season, losing to North Carolina State. UNLV would finish 28-4, winning 27-of-28 games at one point, and also went to the NCAA tournament and won a game.

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If the Wolf Pack wins at San Diego State on Sunday they will tie three other Pack teams as the fourth fastest in school history to get to 20 victories (at 25 games). The 2006-07 team needed just 22 games while the 1945-46 and 2011-12 teams did it in 24. The only thing that really matters this year, though, is if they are the seventh team to get to a NCAA tournament. Word of caution: The 2011-12 team did not get to the NCAAs. They lost in the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Vegas and had to settle for the NIT. This Pack season all comes down to the Mountain West tournament in, you guessed it, Las Vegas.

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Did the Atlanta Falcons choke or did the New England Patriots take Super Bowl performance to an otherworldly level? Well, both. The Falcons just needed to make one play over the final 20 or so minutes of the game to beat the Patriots. And they proceeded to make one goofy physical and mental blunder after another. First down at the Patriots 22 with 4:40 to go. Run the ball three times. Kick a field goal. Game over. But the Patriots also did things that we might never see again in a Super Bowl. Tom Brady was unbelievable. Julian Edelman made a catch that they wouldn't even allow in a video game. The Patriots made the Falcons choke. And the Falcons allowed the Patriots to be great.

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Are San Francisco 49ers fans excited to have a head coach who didn't know enough to run the ball three times in a row from the opponents' 22 with 4:40 to play in a Super Bowl with a two-touchdown lead? Kyle Shanahan might turn out to be a solid head coach or he might be another Mike Singletary, Mike Nolan, Chip Kelly, Jim Tomsula or Dennis Erickson. One thing, though, is certain. The 49ers have sold their football soul to Shanahan, even allowing him to pick his own boss (general manager John Lynch). And that is a good thing. Shanahan is their seventh head coach since Steve Mariucci left after 2002. It's time they let someone truly build an organization.

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Terrell Owens is a Hall of Famer. The former 49ers' wide receiver is, without question, one of the top five most productive wide receivers in NFL history. Yes, he might also be the most disruptive wide receiver to his teammates in NFL history. But that should not matter when it comes to the Hall of Fame. The last wide receiver who was a choirboy was Steve Largent. Those days are over. Keeping Owens out of Pro Football's Hall of Fame isn't the same as keeping a performance enhancing drug user out of baseball's Hall of Fame. Owens didn't cheat to enhance his statistics. He just went out on the field every game, destroyed defensive backs and did a goofy dance or two. Put him in the Hall of Fame.