Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Rebels Hold off Aztecs

SAN DIEGO-UNLV’S basketball team, still struggling after suffering its first loss of the season, had to go to the stall in the final minutes Saturday night to hold off upstart San Diego State University, 118-113, before over 5,000 fans at the San Diego Sports Arena.

The Rebels, despite 34 points from Sam Smith and 31 from Eddie Owens, led by only one point with over two minutes remaining when head coach Jerry Takanian had his team go into the four-corners alignment.

It almost backfired when Lewis Brown missed the first free throw in a one-and-one situation but the Aztecs, with four starters fouled out, couldn’t score at their end. Robert Smith hit two free throws to give the Rebels some breathing room and with seven seconds remaining Owens iced it with two more foul shots.

The Rebels, who started a two-game road trip ranked fourth in the nation, are now 4-1 for the season but have hardly looked it in their last two outings. After losing to Utah, UNLV was a heavy favorite against San Diego State, which was 1-3 and on a three-game losing streak.

The Aztecs played the entire game without 6-8 forward Will Connelly, who was benched for disciplinary reasons. Instead of his loss helping the Rebels, it appeared more than anything to fire up San Diego State, which twice led by 13 points in the first half.

UNLV, which trailed by 14 at the half against Utah, didn’t wait for the second half this time to make their comeback bid. In the final 3:52 of the first half, UNLV outscored San Diego State 20-5 for a 61-58 lead. In one span, the Rebels ripped off a 16-1 spurt. UNLV led most of the second half but never by more than seven points. San Diego State finally caught up and took the lead for the only time in the second half at 105-103 with less than five minutes remaining but UNLV promptly went back ahead when Lewis Brown scored on a layup and Owens stole the ball and scored.

The score was tied three more time down the stretch (20 times in the game) before Brown completed a three-point with 3:07 left to put UNLV in front for good. Brown scored on a follow shot on the play and was fouled by the Aztecs’ Mark Delsman. Brown’s foul shot made it 114-111.

When Delsman fouled out against Brown, the Aztecs were forced to finish the game with five second stringers on the court. Proceeding Delsman to the bench with five fouls were Percy Gilbert, Brian Frishman and Jol Kramer. Gilbert, a freshman, and Frishman were the key losses. Filbert, scoring time and again underneath on dunk shots, left the game with 25 points. Frishman was equally deadly for San Diego State and fouled out with 23 points.

In a foul-marred contest, the Rebels ended up with Reggie Theus and Sam Smith both with four fouls and Larry Moffett on the bench with five. UNLV, however, had the best of it, hitting a school record 42 to 44 free throws to the Aztecs’ 29 of 35.

Owens, who had an off night from the field, was perfect at the foul line in 15 tries, another school record. He also had five steals and fie assists in 28 minutes. Sam, following his 26 point-game against Utah, had 13 field goals and was eight of eight from the free throw line.

He also had 10 rebounds. Brown led the game with 16 rebounds, was the only player to miss at the line, his first miss ending a 29 of 29 string for the Rebels.

Owens and Sam smith, along with a couple of key buckets by Brown, were almost the entire UNLV offense. Sam had 16 and Owens 14 at the half when UNLV was 19 of 19 from the free throw line. The helped overcome some 34 percent shooting from the field. (Owens was four of 15 in the first half). UNLV ended up hitting 35 percent to the Aztecs’ 44.

San Diego State hit 41 percent in the first half when it appeared on its way to handing UNLV its second consecutive setback on the road.

The Aztecs were leading 54-41 with 3:59 left in the first half before the Rebels suddenly got their fast break going and, thanks to a couple of long bombs by Sam Smith, whittled the lead down to six. Then, the UNLV defense took over with three straight turnovers leading to Rebel bucks and a tie game 44-44.

UNLV’S defense didn’t hold up in the second half. The Rebels continued to have a hot hand on offense and were getting the San Diego State players into foul trouble, but time and again the Aztecs would come up with an easy basket of their own, often beating the Rebels with long passes and on the fast break.

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