Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 | 11:30 p.m.
- BOX SCORE: San Diego State 63, UNLV 57
- Familiar February Territory: UNLV clipped again by No. 6 SDSU, 63-57
- INSTANT ANALYSIS: Instant Analysis: Great effort, energy from fans not enough against talented SDSU
- LIVE GAME BLOG: UNLV crumbles late, No. 6 SDSU prevails with 63-57 win at the Mack
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
The UNLV basketball team had sixth-ranked San Diego State on the ropes in the closing minutes at the Mack, but some puzzling late shot attempts doomed the Rebels in a 63-57 loss. At 18-7 overall and 6-5 in the Mountain West, is UNLV still NCAA tourney-bound? Ryan Greene, Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss, plus talk about how high 25-1 SDSU's ceiling really is.
San Diego State senior D.J. Gay’s starring role in a 63-57 victory over UNLV came as a mistake.
Gay said he thought the key to beating the Rebels would be setting up the offense and playing his usual role as a distributor. When that didn’t happen, Gay resorted to a backup plan.
“I couldn’t pass the ball to anyone,” Gay said. “It seemed like no one was able to get open. With that said, when they pressure it leaves gaps to penetrate and that’s what I did.”
Gay scored 20 points and went 8-for-9 from the free-throw line as the Aztecs improved to 25-1. He and teammate Billy White now share a school record for most career wins against UNLV with six.
Gay broke the game’s final tie when he converted two free throws with 1:02 remaining on the clock.
“Tonight, I just got into a comfort level,” Gay said.
Gay is often overshadowed — literally — by the towering giants in the Aztecs' frontcourt. Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and White have garnered much of the credit this season for San Diego State’s rise to national prominence as the No. 6 team in the country.
But no one around the team underscores Gay’s influence.
“When you have a leader like D.J., you expect this,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “He’s relentless. I can’t say enough about him. D.J. was sensational.”
To go with his scoring, Gay dished three assists with no turnovers against UNLV. It was the fourth straight game he’s gone without committing a turnover and only has two in the Aztecs' past seven contests.
Gay had four turnovers in the first game of the season and hasn’t eclipsed that number since.
“He just stays comfortable and poised with the ball,” Leonard said. “Without him in the game, we tend to get off track with the plays. When he comes in, he runs us smoothly.”
Maybe that explains why Gay has barely left the floor in Mountain West Conference play. He’s played 408 minutes out of a possible 440.
San Diego State’s first big push Saturday came in the first half when it went on an 11-3 run to establish a 12-point lead.
Gay started it with a 15-foot jumper and added three more points and an assist during the stretch. Likewise, Gay was the player to tie the game back up after Tre’Von Willis hit a shot in the second half to give the Rebels a brief 55-54 lead.
“He doesn’t get rattled under any circumstances,” Fisher said. “If you watch him, you don’t ever see him go bananas when something good happens or when something bad happens. He has that wherewithal to maintain focus.”
One player Fisher would have a tough time saying the same about Saturday was White, who fouled out with four minutes remaining and the Aztecs clinging to a one-point lead.
White, the Green Valley High product who had a disappointing game with four points and three rebounds, stormed into an Aztecs huddle after he fouled out and got into Gay’s face.
White told Gay to fight and pick up the victory for him.
“He gave us some words of wisdom,” Gay said.
White had no reason to worry. Gay was in control all evening.