The Nevada Wolf Pack and Nevada Southern Rebels basketball rivalry was awkward right from the start.
The Nevada State Journal newspaper called the Wolf Pack “Nevada U.” and labeled the Rebels “N.S.U.” The newspaper also felt it was important to remind everyone where each school’s campus was located.
“The Reno campus cagers beat their cousins from Las Vegas,” the Journal wrote, describing the first basketball game on Jan. 22, 1962 between the two schools.
The 75th meeting between the two schools on Saturday afternoon at Lawlor Events will look nothing like the first two 51 years ago.
The Rebels logo back in 1962 also was a wolf like their northern “cousins,” only the Southern Nevada version was dressed in a Civil War confederate uniform. The Rebels were called Nevada Southern and not UNLV. And the Rebels were still over a decade away from “runnin'” with Jerry Tarkanian.
The first Pack-Rebels game was played in the Virginia Street gym as was the second one just 24 hours later. Yes, the first two games of the Wolf Pack-Rebels rivalry were played in Reno on back-to-back nights, a Monday (Jan. 22, 1962) and Tuesday (Jan. 23 1962), no less.
And the Wolf Pack won both games.
“Nevada tops N.S.U. in Series Opener, 71-51” the Journal headline declared.
A rivalry was born.
“First victory in what will become a traditional basketball series between the two University of Nevada branches was hung up by the Wolf Pack of the Reno campus, 71-51, over the Rebels from Nevada Southern of Las Vegas,” wrote the Journal.
The Journal ran a photo of the two head coaches, the Wolf Pack’s Jack Spencer and the Rebels’ Chub Drakulich, smiling and shaking hands before the game, each wearing a suit and tie.
Craig Hall led the Pack with 24 points and junior Stu Johnson, from Hawthorne, added 18 for the Pack. Freshman Bill “The Dipper” Robinson added 13. N.S.U., in its fourth season of basketball, was led by Don Helm and Bill Farr, who each scored 15.
“The Rebels came to Reno accompanied by a lively band of fans who provided color and noise, prodding their up-state cousins into a similar display of rooting,” the Journal reported.
The Wolf Pack won the rematch the following night, 81-69. Hall had 26 and Robinson had 22. Don Hafen had 22 for the Rebels and Leonard and Helm had 15.
The Wolf Pack would go on to win six of the first 10 meetings between the two schools. The Rebels have won 51 of the last 64.
But on a pair of icy cold nights in January 1962, it was the northern cousins who were the basketball kings of the state of Nevada.