Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Exactly one month ago, San Diego State administrators made a decision to change nothing. And it changed everything.
More than a year after announcing a decision to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, San Diego State followed Boise State’s decision to remain in the league, giving the Mountain West 12 football programs and 11 programs for all other sports.
The Aztecs announced their decision to stay put at a press conference the afternoon of Jan. 16. A few hours later, UNLV (18-7 overall, 5-5 Mountain West) finished off its Thanks for Staying party with an 82-75 victory at Viejas Arena, the Rebels’ only road league win this year and just the third under coach Dave Rice.
At 6 p.m. Saturday in the Thomas & Mack Center, San Diego State (18-6, 6-4) comes into Las Vegas to return the favor on NBC Sports Network. This could have been the last game in the series, and thankfully for everyone involved, it's not.
Although this game isn’t as big as the preseason rankings set it up to be, the matchup almost always delivers. In the past 10 years, there have been numerous memorable showdowns, and here are the top five:
5. No. 22 San Diego State 69, No. 12 UNLV 67
Jan. 14, 2012, in San Diego
Jamaal Franklin’s final shot wasn’t nearly as spectacular as plays like his self alley-oop, but it was more important given the situation.
Dribbling the ball in the final 30 seconds of a tie game, Franklin took advantage of a miscommunication on UNLV’s defensive switch and finished with his right hand while falling away from the basket. It was the type of play Aztec fans have come to expect from the then-sophomore, and it gave SDSU bragging rights.
Not only had the Aztecs taken down their higher-ranked rivals, but it was their sixth straight victory in the series. That wouldn’t last long, though.
This says it all: “It’s more than that last shot.” — Jamaal Franklin, crediting the Aztecs’ overall effort
4. No. 14 UNLV 65, No. 13 San Diego State 63
Feb. 11, 2012, in Las Vegas
Not every game is won with a final shot. A steal does the trick, too, as Justin Hawkins proved in this game.
On a night notable for the sold-out home crowd that included the newly formed Rebellion student section, Hawkins’ steal in the final seconds sealed a victory that snapped the Aztecs’ six-game winning streak in the series.
It also put the Rebels in great position for the league race; however, road losses would undo that plan. On this night, though, everything seemed possible.
This says it all: “The bottom line is our guys certainly were tired of having to answer questions of ‘Why have you lost six in a row?’ ” — UNLV coach Dave Rice
3. San Diego State 68, UNLV 66 OT
Feb. 3, 2009, in Las Vegas
Wink Adams’ 3-point attempt was off target, and the Aztecs moved into first place in the conference with a statement victory.
The victory snapped a 27-game home-court conference winning streak for the Rebels, which included back-to-back Mountain West tournament victories. This was also the game that started to even up the series between the rivals, who are 17-17 against each other as members of the Mountain West.
Game story: Aztecs snap UNLV win streak in overtime
This says it all: “He was scoring all the buckets for us.” — Aztecs guard Richie Williams on teammate Kyle Spain, who scored eight of the team’s first nine points in overtime
2. No. 7 San Diego State 74, UNLV 72
March 11, 2011, in Las Vegas, Mountain West Tournament semifinals
The season that really put San Diego State basketball on the map included three victories against UNLV, none more dramatic than the last.
In the tournament semifinals and with their seed very much up in the air, the Rebels gave up a shot in the final seconds to the Aztecs’ D.J. Gay. UNLV would go on to lose in the Round of 64 as an 8 seed while SDSU beat Jimmer Fredette-led BYU (featuring assistant coach Dave Rice) in the finals to get a 2 seed that led to its only Sweet Sixteen in school history.
UNLV lost both of the earlier meetings that year by six points. The past nine games between the teams have been decided by 10 points or fewer, dating to the end of the 2009 season.
This says it all: "It's pretty frustrating, because we know we can compete with them." — UNLV’s Anthony Marshall
1. UNLV 93, San Diego State 91 OT
Feb. 12, 2005, in San Diego
There’s really no other choice for the top spot. I mean, seriously, watch that replay.
Down 10 with 18 seconds left, the Rebels suddenly came to life in what could only be described as a nightmare for the Aztecs. Then-freshman Curtis Terry capped the comeback with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime, where the Rebels would polish off the victory.
It’s interesting to think about how that rally would be remembered had the Aztecs held on in overtime. Thankfully for UNLV, we’ll never know.
Stories: New big shot on campus
This says it all: “We didn’t have a chance. We shouldn’t have won that game. You’re not supposed to win those types of games.” — UNLV’s Curtis Terry