It was one of those nothing-to-lose, win-one-for-the-coach situations for Cal State Long Beach at the Forum Thursday night.
But the additional incentive wasn't nearly enough for the 49ers to avoid being blown out by top-ranked Nevada Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament.
The Runnin' Rebels (31-1) won, 105-70, to inflict the 19th defeat of the season on the 49ers and the 64th--and last--on Coach Ron Palmer.
Palmer, who was forced by the stress of losing to announce his resignation this week, won only 23 games in his three years at Long Beach.
The 49ers, who had lost to Las Vegas by 30 and 20 points during the regular season, came out so loose that before they knew it, they had an 11-10 lead.
Center DeAnthony Langston, who was scoreless against the Rebels in the first two games, hit three base-line jump shots, and when freshman Rudy Harvey put down his second resounding dunk, the 49ers trailed by only 21-18.
And only once had Las Vegas used its most feared weapon, the three-point shot.
But the inevitable happened with shocking quickness, wiping out Long Beach's dream of becoming Cinderella.
And, as usual, the assault came from 21 feet and beyond.
In five minutes, the Rebels bombed Long Beach out of the game with six three-pointers.
Gary Graham and Freddie Banks each had two, and Lawrence West and Gerald Paddio each made one.
The last three long shots came within a minute, made the score 43-23 and sent the Rebels' many red-clad followers into a frenzy.
They also sent Las Vegas well on its way toward tonight's semifinal game against Cal State Fullerton.
By halftime, when the Rebels led, 57-31, Banks already had 17 points, and Armon Gilliam, who was named the PCAA's Player of the Year, had 14.
Long Beach, which finished the season with 8 straight defeats and a 12-19 record, cut the lead to 63-49 with 14 minutes left in the game.
The Rebels answered that mild threat with a 17-3 run.
"Several players were brilliant tonight," Palmer said after his last game. "Gilliam and Banks (were two of them). Toward the end of the second half, Vegas did some things you don't often see."
That was the problem for Palmer during his three years. The brilliant players were always on the other team.
UC Santa Barbara 87, Utah State 79--Gaucho forward Brian Vaughns' season was thought to be over when he injured his knee Monday night against Fresno State. Jerry Pimm, Vaughns' coach, began preparing for the tournament, figuring he'd be without his leading rebounder and second-leading scorer.
But when the Gauchos took the court, Vaughns was with them. With his left knee heavily taped, he played nearly 35 minutes and scored 18 points as Santa Barbara got its first-ever PCAA tournament victory.
Some smooth second-half ball-handling by point guard Brian Shaw and high-percentage shooting enabled the Gauchos to advance to tonight's semifinals, where they will meet San Jose State. Santa Barbara (16-12) shot 73% in the second half to pull away after Utah State had cut the Gauchos' lead to five points with 6:34 to play.
Forward Khris Fortson made all 6 of his shots and grabbed 8 rebounds, and guard Brian Johnson made 5 of 7 three-point shots for Santa Barbara. Fortson and Johnson scored 17 points each, and guard Carrick DeHart added 16. Danny Conway had a game-high 22 points for Utah State (15-16).
Pimm said Wednesday night that Vaughns was doubtful for the tournament after the injury he suffered in the final seconds of Monday night's loss at Fresno State. He didn't know Vaughns would be able to play until just before game time.
"During warmups, he said he felt OK and he wanted to go," Pimm said. "I just went with him, and he ends up playing 35 minutes. I'm really surprised."
Vaughns was a little surprised himself. "When I was at Fresno, their trainer diagnosed it as torn ligaments," he said. "When I got back to Santa Barbara I had our doctor look at it, and he said the ligaments were just stretched. It felt pretty good today."
San Jose State 71, New Mexico State 54--Ricky Berry, ill with the flu most of the week, came off the bench to score a game-high 25 points and lead the Spartans into the semifinals.
The Spartans (15-13) outrebounded the Aggies, 50-25, and held them to 35%. Guard Kenny Travis led New Mexico State with 20 points but made just 8 of 22 shots.
"We're not going to beat anybody when Kenny Travis has the kind of shooting game he had today," Aggie Coach Neil McCarthy said. "He missed a lot of shots that he's been making for us."
Sophomore center Dietrich Waters had 13 points and 13 rebounds for San Jose State.
PCAA Notes Senior forward Armon Gilliam of Nevada Las Vegas was named the PCAA's Player of the Year in voting by the conference's 10 head coaches. . . . UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian was honored as Coach of the Year. . . . Joining Gilliam on the All-PCAA first team were senior teammates Freddie Banks and Mark Wade, junior Ricky Berry of San Jose State, senior Scott Brooks of UC Irvine and senior Kenny Travis of New Mexico State.