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Gambler questioned in probe

One of the best-known gambling figures in Las Vegas said Friday he was interviewed by the FBI about possible point-shaving by UNLV players during last year's Final Four.

Lem Banker said he told authorities that players on the Runnin' Rebels, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 at the time, wouldn't have dumped the Duke game in the NCAA semifinals. The Rebels failed to repeat as national champion when the Blue Devils beat them 79-77 last March.

The betting line made an unusual shift before the game _ the spread shrank from 9{ points to six _ when a heavy influx of money was placed on Duke.

"The bookmakers bet the game much too high," Banker said. "And the players (bettors) bet it down to six points. A lot of money showed up at the end against UNLV because of the spread. They were a Neiman Marcus price. The spread was too high. The Rebels were overpriced."

Banker, who makes his living betting sports events, is a nationally recognized authority in the industry. He said the Rebels failed to make the point spread set by bookmakers around the county in 18 of 35 games in the 1990-91 season. He said overinflated point spreads, and not point-shaving, was the reason UNLV failed to cover in many games. The Rebels were as high as 40-point favorites in some games.

UNLV officials said two weeks ago that federal authorities had subpoenaed university records relating to convicted sports fixer Richard Perry. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday that authorities were checking rumors that some UNLV players may have shaved points last year.

"I told the FBI there is no way they would dump a championship game," Banker said. "I told them there was nothing to it. They were undefeated. Whoever's starting these rumors is just pouring more salt in the wounds. There is no way these kids would do anything wrong. It was the biggest game of their lives. If they played Duke again, they would still have been five-point favorites. They just had one bad game and Duke played a better game."

Meanwhile, the current Runnin' Rebels continued unimpeded on the court. No. 15 UNLV beat San Jose State 83-39 late Thursday night.