REBELS basketball:

Aztecs snap UNLV win streak in overtime

Last-second missed shot leaves Rebels a game behind in league play

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Justin M. Bowen

San Diego State’s defense swarms Rene Rougeau of UNLV Tuesday night as the Rebels took on the Aztecs at the Thomas & Mack Center. San Diego State beat UNLV in overtime.

Aztecs Spear Rebels

After winning four straight, the Rebels fall to San Diego State in overtime 68-66 Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack. With the win the Aztecs take over sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference standings.

UNLV vs. San Diego State

The Rebels take on the Aztecs in the Thomas and Mack Center. San Diego St. beat UNLV in overtime, 68-66. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Fan Photos

Photos of fans from Tuesday's game against San Diego State Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Another forgettable mess

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 68-66 overtime loss to San Diego State, a game which was marred by an abundance of foul calls and absent offensive flow. The guys talk about just what the Aztecs did to stymie UNLV's recently consistent offensive attack, plus just how hard it will be for the Rebels to bounce back in The Pit on Saturday night.

Beyond the Sun

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher might not have jumped that high since he played at Illinois State more than 40 years ago.

UNLV senior guard Wink Adams missed a 3-point shot at the end of overtime, and the final buzzer beat Rebels freshman guard Oscar Bellfield’s desperation follow-up scoop.

Fisher, maybe inspired by his athletic players, launched himself near halfcourt in the Thomas & Mack Center after securing the 68-66 victory over UNLV.

It snapped the Rebels’ four-game winning streak and a Mountain West Conference home-court victory stretch that had reached 27 consecutive games.

And for at least 24 hours, it gave San Diego State (16-5, 6-2 in the conference) sole possession of first place in the league.

UNLV (17-5, 5-3) dropped a notch back halfway through the conference schedule. Utah (14-7, 5-2) plays at TCU (13-8, 4-3) on Wednesday night.

“Those were two good teams,” said Fisher, who turns 64 next month. “We guarded extremely well and were fortunate tonight.”

Rebels coach Lon Kruger smiled –- maybe he was surprised by Fisher’s leap? –- as he approached Fisher to shake his hand.

“We had a couple of looks but didn’t get them,” Kruger said. “Their length bothered us on a lot of shots.”

Senior forward Kyle Spain, who powered the Aztecs by scoring eight of their first nine points in the extra session, had a clear view of Adams’s long shot from the right side.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t go in,” Spain said. “It looked good when it came off his fingers, but it came off.”

Spain also had a good look at what disrupted UNLV senior power forward Joe Darger on his last-second 3-pointer that would have won it at the end of regulation.

Tied 59-59, Darger’s bomb from the left corner hit the side of the backboard.

“Billy White contested that shot very well,” Spain said. “Any time a 6-foot-8 athletic kid jumps at you like that … I’d be a little scared, too.”

Darger said, for a moment, he had a good look.

“Then I didn’t,” he said.

Spain led everyone with 17 points and started overtime with a flurry.

He hit a 3-point shot on René Rougeau, then Spain stripped Bellfield of the ball near halfcourt and hit two free throws after Bellfield prevented him from sailing in for an easy layup.

Then Spain nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, with Darger lunging at him late, to give SDSU a 67-63 edge.

“I’ve never seen him like that before,” said Aztecs guard Richie Williams. “He was scoring all the buckets for us. He showed a lot of senior leadership. We look to him for that. He played great.”

Darger answered Spain’s second long-range shot with one of his own, from the right side, 23 seconds later to get the Rebels within a point.

With a crowd of 14,137 on its feet, Rougeau blocked Lorrenzo Wade’s shot to ignite a fastbreak that Rougeau couldn’t finish at the other end with 45 seconds left.

Sprinting in from the left side, Rougeau flew in with his right hand. The ball caromed off the glass and rolled off the front of the rim.

“That was a key,” Rougeau said. “I was just going too fast. If anything, I should have taken my time. All we can do is get ready for New Mexico. If anything, this is more motivation for New Mexico.”

UNLV plays the Lobos (14-9, 5-3) at The Pit in Albuquerque on Saturday night.

“It’s definitely a setback,” said Rebels reserve guard Kendall Wallace. “We have to take the loss in a good way. Hopefully it’ll motivate us for the rest of the season.”

SDSU had the motivation, especially on defense, in the first half. It limited UNLV to 28-percent shooting, its second-worst marksmanship all season in the first 20 minutes.

The worst was that 26-percent effort against California in late November, which led to an 18-point drubbing at the Mack.

As has been the case lately, UNLV found itself trailing by double digits in the first half, at 24-14, when Wade missed a jumper and Adams recovered it.

As soon as Adams had a handle on it, though, Spain stripped it back, went up and was fouled by Adams. Spain hit two free throws for that 10-point cushion.

Despite that poor shooting, however, UNLV stormed back to cut its deficit to only 30-28 at halftime. Darger’s 3-pointer from the right side capped that rally.

Longtime Las Vegas native Greg Maddux, a surefire Hall of Fame pitcher who retired from baseball in December after 23 seasons, and a UNLV basketball fan since 1976, was honored at the intermission.

He was given a white UNLV basketball jersey with his name and number, 31, on the back, and he said he hoped the Rebels blew out the Aztecs “by 20” in the second half.

It took more than 13 minutes, but UNLV whittled its way to the lead when Wallace stole a ball and Adams sliced in for a layup.

The Rebels had the advantage, at 52-50, and padded it on Rougeau’s stellar spin and bank shot. Then Rougeau hit a jumper from the free-throw line for a 56-52 lead with 4:38 left.

But UNLV didn’t get another field goal in regulation.

Sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis hit the back end of two free throws with 1:48 left, and Adams sank a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left for a 59-58 lead.

SDSU forward Billy White, a Green Valley High graduate, buried a free throw with 12.7 seconds left but missed the second, with the crowd roaring, to set up Darger’s last-second attempt.

But White scrambled back to throw Darger’s aim off.

Multiple Rebels said the mood in their locker room after the game was quiet. “Very quiet,” one said.

Rougeau wasn’t discouraged, though.

“This was a battle,” he said. “It’s not like they just worked us. It would mean something if it were a poor effort. That would be a different case.”

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  1. The officiating was horrible last night. They were calling ticky tack fouls on the Rebels but turned a blind eye on all the hacking that was going on. Both Wade and White travel and carry every single time they get the ball. Regardless of the poor officiating the Rebels should be ashamed of themselves for that showing. It was a miracle we were even in that game at the end.

  2. This team's legacy will be schizophrenia.

    The refs were horrible as usual (par for the course in the MWC). But, the bad calls went both ways. I wouldn't say that the refs gave one team or the other an advantage.

    What was more frustrating was that our players, for the 3rd time this year in the T&M, let the bad officiating get to them and take them out of the game mentally.

    I don't want to think about how many times the Rebels would go to the basket NOT looking to finish the play, but looking to get fouled. And then when the call didn't come, they'd look over at our coaches with pouty eyes begging for help. It was sickening to watch, especially since I've seen it multiple times this year. SDSU did a much better job of adjusting to the way the game was being called.

    This team just doesn't have "it". That killer instinct. That player who refuses to lose on their home court. That guy who will go up and throw it down angrily, rather than put up a feeble attempt that rolls off the rim or doesn't even touch the rim.

    Sadly, once again, UNLV's ncaa chances now come down to 3 days in March. I hope that trend changes one of these years.

  3. True, quite right. Well put. The officiating was absolutely atrocious. Evenly awful, but just horrible. I'm not sure there was even 90 consecutive seconds of play in the second half, with all the whistles and stops and whatnot. I would have rather they met at Sunset Park at 3 pm yesterday to truly settle the identity of the better team. Couldn't tell from that one last night.
    UNLV shot 28 pct in the first half and only trailed by two! Unreal they were even. Above average teams capitalize on those situations. Three days in March, indeed.

  4. With all due respect to these young men ... Wallace & Rougeau's comments above are ridiculous!!! "Take the loss in a good way" ... "it will motivate us for the rest of the season" ... "If anything, this is more motivation for New Mexico" ... WHAT??????

    How many more "motivational" losses are you guys going to accept? Losing to the team you share 1st place with to get motivated for a 4th or 5th place team? C'mon!!! Man up, show some mental toughness, or be satisfied with a solid NIT bid!

  5. One thing that does provide solace lcr, is that Kruger led teams usually do learn from a loss. We need to go undefeated through the end of conference play. Making the Big Dance SHOULD be the motivation.

  6. I was wondering why we did not use a timeout at the end of regulation and the end of overtime? We had about 9 to 10 seconds on the clock each time, and I would have thought that Kruger would have used this to set up a play and possibly put in some different subs for the last chance shots. I think we usually play well coming out of a timeout and coach has so many plays to execute out of the break.

  7. SDSU obviously watched more tape. Thats it. Sad to lose that way but it wasn't the players' fault this time. We had no answers on either end because we didn't take the time to find them before the game.

    After we beat L'ville at home it infuriated Rebel fans that everyone said we lost because L'ville had an off night and was shooting cold. The fact is, preparation and a good defensive effort cause those things. This is a very bad loss. I'd like to hear the staff take some accountability for this one.

  8. runnin08, he liked the matchups on the court at the end of regulation and the OT. Wanted to maybe try to catch an Aztec or two on his heels ... I'm not sure about 3-point shots on both occasions, then again I'm not paid millions to make such decisions. If I were in that profession, I think I'd last about 1.2 months.

  9. I agree with True "This team's legacy will be schizophrenia."

    I have watched almost every game this season and the thing that bugs me is not knowing which Rebs team is going to show up.

    It is enough to drive a fan crazy, you know like the players.

  10. what a half-assed effort

  11. San Diego State deserves credit for pestering UNLV. Rebels coaches wanted their players to get into the Aztecs, but the Aztecs turned that around. Hey, if Wink or Darger or Wallace hits an extra 3-ball, different story. Same with a free throw or two in the final minutes of regulation, or Rougeau's layup. Then again, the Louisville game was in the balance til the final buzzer, too. One game isn't a whole season. Which team will show up? The one that wins or the one that loses ... that's quite a tired cliche, applicable to every team in any sport. Sometimes, the other guys just beat you.
    If they can go into the MWC tourney with some victories, they win three and they're in.

  12. Don't feel bad rebel fans..... it only gets worse... guess who's up next? And where.. ;-)

  13. Rob and others, that effort was lethargic in my opinion. SDSU is good, but not THAT good. They figured they could do their cutesy come-from-behind move and got burned.

    3 games in March? This team loses at HOME. I'm not too sure of the chances. The back-half of conference play is starting and this team still doesn't have an identity. Well, yeah they do: Jekyl & Hyde!

    Where is Darris Santee? He is looking more and more like a bust. Lon can't trust him, so we go back to the small lineup during crunch time. That's where Spain's size prevailed -- the Rebels were too small. Our bigs are not cutting the mustard, and that hinders this team's chances of any deep run.

    I believe the best the fans can hope for is that this team starts to peak at the right time. They certainly haven't come close yet, so I guess that's the upside.

  14. im just going to relax... enjoy the next 4 home games and hope we come out on top of this mess. san diego state whupped us.. wasnt the refs, we got beat, game seemed so similar to the cal game. no one stepped up. lets stay positive and enjoy feb-march... greatest 2 months in sports if you ask me.

  15. the complete failure of the two new bigs to develop is a killer: leaves us with a small team that neither shoots well (& what's up with the ft percentage!?) nor grabs offensive boards--there's only so much that good coaching can overcome....that said, still a fun team to watch!