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Live blog: Rebels hold off San Diego State, 88-78

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Steve Marcus

UNLV players stretch out before a game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.

Updated Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 | 9:03 p.m.

UNLV's 11-game losing streak to San Diego State is officially a thing of the past, as Shakur Juiston and Brandon McCoy led the Rebels to an 88-78 win.

San Diego State closed within two points in the final minutes, but Brandon McCoy and Jovan Mooring hit back-to-back jumpers to regain control. Juiston and McCoy finished with 21 points apiece, as the two big men combined to make 19-of-25 shots on the night.

San Diego State got hot late in the second half, as three straight 3-pointers trimmed UNLV's lead to 77-75 with three minutes to play. But McCoy and Mooring's shots stretched the lead back to six, and SDSU never threatened again.

UNLV is now 4-4 in Mountain West play after picking up its first home win against a league opponent. The Rebels are 15-6 overall.

Rebels' lead down to 77-72

UNLV had opened up a 12-point lead, but San Diego State is making its run, and with 4:50 remaining, the Rebels' lead is 77-72.

A Shakur Juiston jumper from the top of the key put UNLV ahead 75-63 with 6:31 to play, but SDSU has gone on a 9-2 run since then, capped off by a Devin Watson 3-pointer that has pulled the Aztecs within five points.

UNLV is shooting 62.5 percent in the second half and 57.7 percent for the game, so the Rebels will be looking to close this game out with some easy baskets. Juiston and Brandon McCoy are leading the way with 19 points apiece.

Rebels lead San Diego State, 60-53

UNLV is on a 12-5 run, and with 11:56 left to play, the Rebels lead San Diego State, 60-53.

After San Diego State's last miss, Shakur Juiston pulled down the rebound and immediately threw the ball ahead to Jordan Johnson, who streaked ahead of the defense for a breakaway layup. Johnson has eight points, while Juiston has 12.

San Diego State called timeout after the layup to regroup, but don't expect the Aztecs to go away. They've played from behind for most of the night, and they've managed to hang around on garbage points and offensive rebounds. SDSU is shooting just 40.4 percent for the game and 33.3 percent in the second half.

That forced SDSU to call timeout and regroup

UNLV, San Diego State tied at halftime

Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston continue to dominate offensively, but spotty rebounding has allowed San Diego State to hang around. At halftime, we're tied, 38-38.

UNLV has made it a point to work the ball inside, with Juiston (12 points) and McCoy (11 points) being the main targets. San Diego State doesn't have the size to handle them inside, and the Rebels did a good job of exploiting that over the first 20 minutes. McCoy and Juiston have combined to make 11-of-14 shots, with most of their attempts coming right at the rim.

Where UNLV faltered was on the defensive glass. San Diego State is the Mountain West's best offensive rebounding team, and they've showed it tonight. The Aztecs have already hit their season average with 10 offensive rebounds, and they've converted those into 12 second-chance points. UNLV's perimeter players will have to do a better job of boxing out at the second level, or SDSU will continue to rack up extra offensive possessions.

UNLV leads San Diego State, 26-23

UNLV continues to put the ball in the basket at an efficient rate, but San Diego State has weathered the initial storm, and with 6:17 left in the half the Rebels' lead is down to 26-23.

Shakur Juiston and Brandon McCoy have led the way for UNLV, as they've combined for 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. McCoy found Juiston alone under the basket for layups on each of UNLV's last two possessions, so it looks like SDSU will have some defensive adjustments to make at the half.

The Aztecs have picked it up offensively after a slow start, however. Jeremy Hemsley has six points and Matt Mitchell has five points.

Rebels testing new lineup against San Diego State

Marvin Menzies made a change to his starting lineup, and it seems to be working in the opening minutes against San Diego State, as the Rebels have run out to a 9-2 lead with 16:37 left in the first half.

Freshman forward Tervell Beck is making his first start, and Kris Clyburn will come off the bench. Beck hasn't done much yet, but the Rebels are hot. Brandon McCoy threw down a fast-break alley-oop dunk, and Jovan Mooring swished a transition 3-pointer to help UNLV build its early lead.

Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. San Diego State

It's been more than four years since UNLV has recorded a victory over San Diego State. In three of the last four seasons, SDSU has ended the Rebels' season by beating them in the Mountain West tournament. Last year, UNLV watched a 21-point second-half lead disappear, as San Diego State stormed back for an overtime win in the MWC quarterfinals.

So if there's a game the Rebels want to win this season, Saturday night's showdown with SDSU (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network) is probably the one. Can UNLV snap the streak? Three keys to watch:

Big-game attitude

Does this qualify as a rivalry game? San Diego State has won the last 11 meetings, including ending UNLV's season with victories in the Mountain West tournament in three of the last four years, but Marvin Menzies still believes this is a big game.

And that's how he wants his players to treat it.

"When I first started out as a head coach, I used to be, let's approach it like any other game and not get too excited about it," Menzies said. "But I don't believe that anymore. Now I feel like you need to get up for games that mean more to your fan base, games that mean more to your community. You need to bring more in those games."

Can the Rebels summon an extra shot of intensity and play harder than San Diego State for 40 minutes? We haven't seen UNLV play a complete game like that yet in conference play, but they'll need that kind of focus if they want to knock off San Diego State and turn this into a real rivalry again.

Win inside

San Diego State isn't a dominant team on the interior, like the best of former coach Steve Fisher's squads, but they still get the job done under the basket.

The Aztecs rank second in the league in offensive rebounds (10.8 per game), and they seal off the paint on defense, as just 24.4 percent of opponents' shots have come around the rim (for context, 38.3 percent of UNLV's attempts this season have come near the rim).

Can UNLV make a dent in either of those areas? Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston have seen their numbers dip slightly in Mountain West play, so Menzies has tinkered with bigger lineups recently, playing freshman Tervell Beck (6-foot-7, 230 pounds) alongside the two starting big men and pairing McCoy with freshman Mbacke Diong (6-foot-11, 215 pounds) for stretches.

If Menzies is determined to beat SDSU inside, that may be his approach — more big men playing together for more minutes, using strength and size under the rim to influence the game.

Whether he opts to go that route on Saturday, Menzies made it clear that Beck and Diong and bigger lineups are going to be factors in the second half of the season.

"It's still a work in progress, obviously, because those guys predominantly got their reps at different positions," Menzies said. "But I think it's something else in our arsenal that could help us."

Get moving

UNLV stagnated in the first half of Tuesday's game at Fresno State, as they got drawn into FSU's slow, walk-it-up style of play. But the Rebels came out in the second half determined to force tempo, and while it led to some quick misses early in the shot clock, it worked out because it sucked Fresno into playing fast, and elevating the tempo allowed UNLV to get back into its offensive rhythm and stage a comeback attempt.

San Diego State isn't the lead-footed unit it was under Fisher. The Aztecs can be persuaded to get up and down, and if the Rebels commit to pushing the pace for 40 minutes, they'll have a better chance of creating easy baskets around the rim.

Attacking San Diego State's halfcourt defense is a tough proposition. Look for UNLV to turn this into a fast-paced game and create shots before the defense is set.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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