Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 | 7:10 p.m.
Final, SDSU wins 63-57
UNLV had its chance, leading No. 6 San Diego State late, 55-54, on Saturday afternoon.
Then the Rebels mysteriously went away from the attacking style that had helped them overcome a double-digit deficit, missing a handful of late late 3-pointers en route to a 63-57 loss.
UNLV is now 18-7 overall and 6-5 in the Mountain West, now eliminating any remaining wiggle room if they hope to land another NCAA tournament at-large bid.
The Rebels were 1-of-15 from 3-point range, making them 2-of-33 from deep in two losses to SDSU this season.
D.J. Gay led the Aztecs with 20 points, while Kawhi Leonard posted yet another double-double against the Rebels with 14 points and 10 boards. Tre'Von Willis led UNLV with 13 points, and Brice Massamba put up and inspired 11-point, 6-rebound effort off of the bench. But Chace Stanback struggled against SDSU yet again, finishing with five points on 2-of-8 shooting.
UNLV is back in action on Tuesday night against Air Force back at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels for full postgame coverage.
3:19, Second Half, SDSU leads 54-53
UNLV trailed by double digits in the second half, and now has a chance to pull off an epic comeback down the stretch run.
The Rebels are down 54-53 with 3:19 left and will have the ball out of the current TV timeout. Sending the game into this break was the fifth and final foul on SDSU's Billy White on the offensive end.
UNLV has surged back behind an inspired effort off of the bench from junior forward Brice Massamba, who now has 11 points and six rebounds. He scored back-to-back buckets after James Rahon's three put SDSU ahead 54-49 just moments ago.
Tre'Von Willis is bulling his way into double-digits, too, with 11 points off of tough drives instead of outside shots.
UNLV has only hit one 3-pointer today, and is playing the game at SDSU's pace. Winning a game played in this style would be far more impressive than the up-and-down, run-and-gun fashion they prefer.
11:50, Second Half, SDSU leads 45-37
UNLV is not going away, but San Diego State is only letting the Rebels get so close.
The Rebels got a huge three-point play from Carlos Lopez after he faked out Billy White, then a big layup from Chace Stanback. They had a chance to close in after trailing by six, but at the second media timeout of the second half trail SDSU 45-37.
The sell-out crowd of 18,557 is beginning to become a factor as the Rebels are succeeding at playing the Aztecs' game, but still, they'll need a major offensive spurt to come from somewhere.
A big note for SDSU is that senior forward Billy White is now on the bench with four fouls, while starting center Malcolm Thomas has three. The Rebels are now showing a penchant for driving right at them and drawing contact, and are already in the bonus. Free throw shooting will be key down the stretch. SDSU is 9-of-9 tonight, while UNLV is 4-of-7.
Halftime, SDSU leads 34-27
UNLV had a chance to close to within two possessions of San Diego State just before the half, but after kicking out to Anthony Marshall for a 3-pointer that he hit, Oscar Bellfield was called for a charge. As it is, SDSU holds a 34-27 lead on UNLV at the break.
The Rebels should feel fortunate to be this close, though, considering their struggles to set up consistent offense against the Aztecs' defense that has given them problems for two years now.
UNLV was just 12-of-30 from the floor in the first half, while SDSU was 13-of-24, 2-of-4 from deep and 6-of-6 at the free throw line.
The Rebels have only gotten off five 3-point attempts so far, hitting one of them.
SDSU's Kawhi Leonard had one big spurt that led to most of his game-high 10 points, while D.J. Gay is playing the role of wingman beautifully with nine points.
For UNLV, Oscar Bellfield is shooting the ball well again and leads the Rebels with eight points. Around him, though, they're struggling to get clean shots.
Two Rebels who will need to come alive after the break are Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback.
Willis has five points on 2-of-6 shooting, but only three of those looks have been uncontested. As for Stanback, UNLV's leading scorer on the season is scoreless and got off only one shot attempt in 17 first half minutes.
3:40, First Half, SDSU leads 32-23
D.J. Gay is an impressive 4-of-6 from the floor so far for San Diego State, while the Aztecs are a combined 12-of-19.
They've built a 32-23 lead by hitting awkward look after awkward look, while UNLV is still struggling to find consistent looks.
A big spark for the Rebels off of the bench so far has been junior forward Brice Massamba, who has four points and two huge offensive rebounds. This is all coming after he'd fallen well behind Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez in the center rotation.
What's going to have to change soon for UNLV is the presence of Chace Stanback, who scored 24 points on Wednesday night at TCU. In 13 minutes so far, the Rebels' leading scorer is 0-for-1 from the floor and scoreless. He's without a stat of any kind so far.
11:33, First Half, SDSU leads 13-8
UNLV came out looking like it was going to push the pace against the defensive-minded Aztecs, but now the game is back down at San Diego State's pace, and the Rebels are already against the wall.
SDSU leads UNLV 13-8 just over eight mintues in, as UNLV is taking too much time setting up shots and simply getting clean looks against the Aztecs.
UNLV is holding its own on the glass much better this time around, and Quintrell Thomas played a few strong minutes to open the game, but San Diego State is controlling everything.
I said before the game that UNLV would probably have to score 70 points to win this thing, and right now, that might be tough to do. The tides will have to turn soon.
For UNLV, a positive is that Oscar Bellfield is again shooting well, hitting two of his first three attempts.
Scoring a season-high 94 points on lowly TCU on Wednesday night was one thing. Putting up a big number on No. 6 San Diego State today will be another.
The Rebels (18-6 overall, 6-4 Mountain West) would like to draw the Aztecs (24-1, 9-1) into a shoot-out today at the Thomas & Mack Center, as it would play well into their favor.
If the pace of the game resembles that of SDSU's 55-49 victory over UNLV on Jan. 12, the Rebels could be in an uphill battle on their home floor.
SDSU needs this win in hopes of staying neck-and-neck with BYU in the race for a MWC regular season title. UNLV needs it to keep postseason hopes alive.
A win today would help solidify an NCAA tournament résumé that already got a nice bump today by No. 13 Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 Ohio State, 71-67.
The Rebels are in dire need of a marquee win in conference play and are running out of opportunities to get one.
This, certainly, would qualify.
Here are three things to watch tonight when the Rebels and Aztecs get underway just after 5 p.m.
1) UNLV has to score 70 points tonight. That's what I'm setting at the magic number. If it reaches 70, the Rebels likely win. They don't need to be as prolific as they were in Fort Worth on Wednesday, but cannot get sucked into a grinder against San Diego State, who has made a living in those games this season. The last time UNLV scored at least 70 on SDSU was in the first meeting last season in Vegas. Since then, they've been held under that by them thrice, losing all three games.
2) Quintrell Thomas is averaging 11.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game since returning to the starting lineup four games ago. But those numbers gain much more validity if he can come close to matching those numbers against Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and Kawhi Leonard. In order to win, UNLV has to not allow SDSU own the glass like it has in recent meetings, and that'll start with Quintrell.
3) Will the Good Oscar Bellfield or Bad Oscar Bellfield show up? If the good version comes to play, it gives UNLV a major leg up. That's who was in Fort Worth on Wednesday, hitting three of five 3-point tries, finishing with 13 points and six assists.
As for my prediction tonight, I'm taking UNLV to get the win it badly needs, 74-69. My Pick to Click tonight will be Chace Stanback for the second consecutive game.
Remember, to join in the conversation during the game just below here, add the #unlvmbb tag to your tweets. Also, give me a follow at twitter.com/ryanmgreene.
Talk to you just after tip-off.