Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009 | 9:52 p.m.
Final, SDSU wins, 68-66
A Joe Darger 3-point miss from the corner got the Aztecs to overtime. From there, Kyle Spain took care of the rest.
The SDSU senior wing hit two 3-pointers of his own and a pair of free throws in overtime, and San Diego State put itself in first place in the Mountain West standings with a 68-66 victory over the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Tre'Von Willis and Joe Darger hit threes of their own in OT, but a Wink Adams miss from the right wing with three seconds left sealed the Rebels' fate, dropping Lon Kruger's club to 17-5 overall and 5-3 in MWC play.
Spain led the Aztecs with 17 points, while Las Vegas natives Billy White and Lorrenzo Wade each scored 12. Adams led the Rebels with 16, as UNLV shot only 33.9 percent from the floor.
UNLV is back in action on Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M. at 5 p.m. against the Lobos, who knocked off Wyoming at The Pit on Tuesday night.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
End of regulation, game tied, 59-59
Well, it just keeps getting more interesting. For as ugly as this one has been with the bazillion foul calls by Dave Hall & Co. in the second half, there's actually been some hidden beauty to this one.
Las Vegas native Billy White hit one of two free throws with 12.7 seconds left to tie the game up, and Joe Darger's last-second 3-point attempt from the corner hit the side of the backboard.
41 fouls in this one. It's been uuuuuuuuugly.
What keeps making things more intriguing are the individual foul situations. For UNLV, Wink Adams, Rene Rougeau and Tre'Von Willis all have four, while Lorrenzo Wade has four for the Aztecs.
2:16, second half, UNLV leads 56-54
As we thought, this one looks like it's going to come down to free throws.
Both teams are in the double bonus, and Lorrenzo Wade is going to the line in the double bonus with 2:16 to play, UNLV leading 56-54.
René Rougeau deserves plenty of the credit for catapulting UNLV ahead here of late. He finished a nice drive with two off the glass, and hit a step-back jumper from the elbow after executing a pretty crossover dribble. Then, against an expiring shot clock, he swatted a D.J. Gay shot.
7:29, second half, SDSU leads 50-49
Mo Rutledge is that guy tonight, the one who needed to come off the bench and make something happen.
After hitting a pair of free throws following a steal, he took in a big offensive rebound off of an Oscar Bellfield free throw miss. Then, his stretch continued with a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it a 50-49 game, as SDSU is now having trouble offensively and appears to have lost some of its swagger.
Then again, this game won't have much flow from here out. The refs have made their mark here in the second half, and both teams enter the final 7:29 in the double bonus.
11:51, second half, SDSU leads 43-38
Well, the Dave Hall crew we all know and love has now showed up for the second half. San Diego State just had three fouls called on them on one defensive possession. This came after UNLV was called for two on the other end, sending the Aztecs into the bonus at the 12:22 mark.
This one is going to slow down plenty, now. UNLV only needs to draw two more whistles to get into the bonus, and it'd be a safe bet that that happens by the next media timeout.
Well, as I'm typing this, Tre'Von Willis was just called for his fourth with 11:16 to go. Oscar Bellfield's going to have to re-emerge in a big way.
And a big up to UNLV receiver Ryan Wolfe, who came out and nearly drained a half-court shot during the Saturn shootout. He performed much better than NASCAR driver Casey Kahne, who we had a tough time identifying, since there's no way that kid weights more than about 130 soaking wet. Kind of shocking.
15:58, second half, SDSU leads 38-34
All the halftime break did was recharge SDSU on the defensive end, as UNLV is having a tough time getting clean looks still. But the tough ones have fallen. Three of them, to be exact. The latest was a Wink Adams spinning fadeaway jumper from the left elbow.
But SDSU is charging hard, with Billy White and Mehdi Cheriet having both hit tough inside runners for the Aztecs.
The longer this game wears on, the more apparent it becomes that SDSU just tries to wear opponents down with depth and athleticism. Not the world's most disciplined squad.
Halftime, SDSU leads 30-28
Joe Darger's first 3-pointer of the first half broke a UNLV scoring drought, and his second pulled the Rebels to within two points of San Diego State at the half at the Thomas & Mack Center, 30-28.
But it hardly erased a more-than-spotty offensive 20 minutes for the Rebels. UNLV was just 7-of-25 from the floor, as SDSU's athleticism stymied the Rebels' backcourt early. Wink Adams and Oscar Bellfield chipped away from the free throw line once the Rebels were in the bonus late in the half, but still, some more second half magic will be needed. If you've been following this team of late, it won't be the first time that's been the case.
Some other numbers of note from the first half ...
-10 guys saw time on the floor for UNLV, including an interesting lineup midway through of Mo Rutledge, DeShawn Mitchell, Brice Massamba, Oscar Bellfield and Kendall Wallace.
-Darris Santee was 1-of-3 from the floor with one rebound in the first half, but struggled to find footing inside against the springy Aztec defenders.
-Lorrenzo Wade was 3-of-10 from the floor and scored a hard-earned 7 points. He was 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
-UNLV was outscored in the paint 14-8 and didn't register a single fast break point.
The atmosphere is pretty intense in the building tonight. The UNLV fans are looking for any reason to blow up, and Darger's 3-pointers certainly did that a little bit. Someone else, though, is going to have to find a way to contribute on the offensive end. More than likely, it'll have to be a creator rather than a spot-up shooter. Wink Adams or Oscar Bellfield would be likely candidates. Tre'Von Willis gave it a try, but his shot has yet to look on tonight. He's 0-for-4 from the floor.
My pick to click beforehand was René Rougeau, and I'll stick with him, as he's shown no hesitation to mix it up with the Aztecs underneath.
If UNLV is to come away with this one, the word pretty will in no way describe it. But, hey, every conference season includes a few of those. Gotta prove you can win them at some point.
Finally, kudos to Greg Maddux for being honored tonight. Athletics Director Mike Hamrick presented him with a personalized No. 31 UNLV jersey. Somewhere, Curtis Terry is livid.
3:22, first half, SDSU leads 28-20
This might be the worst shooting half UNLV has had this season, and San Diego State's athleticism is largely to thank for that, as the Aztecs have hardly allowed the Rebels an uncontested shot. Just about everything is being forced.
But the first open look to fall might have opened the floodgates some. Joe Darger hit a 3-pointer from the right corner on a fast break to pull UNLV to within six points at 24-18.
After that, the two teams traded three quick buckets in transition, and UNLV found its first true breathing room of the day.
The Rebels are 6-of-22 from the floor, and have 6 turnovers to just 3 assists. Hardly pretty.
11:23, first half, SDSU leads 12-8
Lorrenzo Wade has fallen in love with the outside shot, but it has yet to fall for the Cheyenne High grad. He's 0-for-3 from long range, and SDSU has stalled out offensively for the time being.
UNLV is starting to figure things out offensively in terms of working the ball inside, but little has yet to come from it. Wink Adams provided one gem of a play by drawing a double-team before feeding René Rougeau for a reverse layup.
Kendall Wallace has checked into the game during the latest media timeout for the Rebels. This is about the time when he provided a spark on Saturday. We'll see if he can crack the hex here.
14:58, first half, SDSU leads 12-4
Well, there's no question that this is team has the best combination of size and athleticism that UNLV has seen in league play. The Aztecs are springing off of the floor and flashing out on defense, throwing UNLV off of everything it wants to do offensively. Nowhere has that been more apparent than with Joe Darger, as he hasn't been able to shake free yet for a clean look from long range.
D.J. Gay and Richie Williams have each hit 3-pointers for the Aztecs, while Wink Adams responded with one in between for the Rebels. However, the pressure on UNLV's backcourt led to fast break buckets for both Billy White and Kyle Spain.
The Rebels need to figure out a way to attack that perimeter pressure, and fast. Or they just need SDSU to tire out.
And an early kudos to SDSU Steve Fisher, who complained to one of the refs that there's too much smoke in the air at the Mack. And the ref is supposed to do what about it, specifically?
Pregame, part deux
Forgot to even mention Greg Maddux will be honored tonight at halftime, and kudos to the UNLV video department for splicing some Mad Dog highlights into the pregame package. Also, how about the UNLV football presence? Quarterback Omar Clayton and linebacker Jason Beauchamp did the honorary 'lights, please' before the video montage. Very diverse night here at the Mack.
It's looking more and more like UNLV will get San Diego State's best shot tonight as two of the three teams tied atop the Mountain West standings at 5-2 face off at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Aztecs senior forward Ryan Amoroso, who averages 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds for Steve Fisher's club, will play tonight after missing Saturday's game at Colorado State -- a 19-point SDSU win -- with a back injury. He walked by the scorer's table just a few moments ago, strapped some sort of brace around his lower abdomen, and told SDSU's radio team that he will be playing.
As for senior guard Richie Williams, who enters tonight two steals shy of the Mountain West record, he's shooting around and moving well with a brace guarding his tender left knee. He just moments ago executed some nice spin moves before cashing a couple of mid-range jumpers.
Both teams come in hot, as SDSU has won three of its last four, and UNLV is on a four-game tear since its mind-boggling loss at Colorado State.
After tonight, each team is half-way through its league schedule, and with the cream of the Mountain West beginning to separate itself from everyone else, a win tonight would go a long way for either team. The rematch in San Diego will be the regular season finale on March 7.
A couple of notable numbers on the foe coming into tonight ...
-San Diego State ranks first in the league in points allowed, surrendering only 59 per game.
-The Aztecs are also tops in the MWC in steals with 169. UNLV is third with 142.
-Here's an odd one: The Aztecs are the league's top offensive rebounding club, averaging 12.7 per game, while they rank dead last in defensive carmos, with an average of just 20.40.
-As if 6-foot-6 senior Lorrenzo Wade wasn't already SDSU's top player to watch, the Cheyenne High product has been at his best in the last four games after missing a loss at Wyoming with a shoulder injury. He's averaging 20.5 ppg over the last four, including 25 points at CSU on Saturday.
Final note before getting to everyone's favorite segment: Kendall Wallace obviously did not pony up the cash for Scotty Hoffman's spare kicks which he wore while scoring 15 points at Air Force on Saturday. He's back to his own red and white Nikes. Given that Hoffman's shoes were a size-and-a-half too small, maybe some superstitions just aren't worth the pain.
Now, onto tonight's three big predictions ...
1) Picks to click I'm going to go ahead and nab René Rougeau, I'll get Miech's selection once he gets back down here courtside. (Miech wants Tre'Von Willis)
2) Cannot emphasize Rougeau enough While Tre'von Willis and others are surging, UNLV's do-it-all swingman has flown under the radar of late. In Saturday's win at Air Force, Rougeau went scoreless for the first time all season, only attempted one shot, had 3 rebounds, 3 fouls and 3 turnovers. It was an odd game, indeed, without him as the steadying force. Tonight, against a team with plenty of athletic guys in that 6-foot-4 to 6-6 range who can play inside and out, he's the most likely Rebel to counter that.
3) Scores ... I'll go with UNLV, 68-64. It's going to be close, and don't expect a high-scoring, free-flowing affair with Dave Hall manning one of the whistles. The Rebels get the edge because of the home floor. It's been that important in the MWC this year. SDSU is 3-3 this season in true road games. Again, I'll get Miech's pick shortly. (Miech took UNLV, 71-57)