UNLV BASKETBALL:

Spain helps spoil UNLV chances to end season on win

Aztecs and Rebels meet again Thursday in MWC tourney

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Justin M. Bowen

Kyle Spain is fired up after he hits a three as the Rebels take on the San Diego State Aztecs Saturday night, March 7, 2009, at Cox Arena in San Diego. UNLV lost 57-46 to finish the regular season 9-7 in conference play.

Bubble Burst

The UNLV Rebels NCAA Tournament bid took a major hit on Saturday night when the Rebels lost 57 to 46 to San Diego State. UNLV is now the No. 5 seed in the upcoming Mountain West Conference Tournament.

UNLV faces San Diego State

Tre'Von Willis goes to the basket by two defenders during  first-half action as the Rebels take on the San Diego State Aztecs Saturday night, March 7, 2009, at Cox Arena in San Diego.  UNLV lost 57-46 to finish the regular season 9-7 in conference play.

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The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: See you again on Thursday

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech hit the way-back button, discussing UNLV's 57-46 loss to Miech's alma mater -- San Diego State. The guy talk about a trip down Rob's memory lane, then just what went wrong with the Rebels on Saturday night in Cox Arena. Plus, is it too late for the Rebels to right the ship? We'll find out on Thursday, when the two see each other again to start the MWC Tournament.

Beyond the Sun

SAN DIEGO – Don’t tell San Diego State senior forward Kyle Spain that Saturday night’s game against UNLV didn’t mean anything.

“Any game you come out, you want to win,” he said. “You can get beat on any given night. You don’t want to lose on a night like this, anyway. You want to win no matter what the circumstance.”

It was Senior Night in Cox Arena, and six Aztecs were honored before SDSU’s 57-46 victory over the Rebels.

Spain’s 3-point shots on consecutive possessions with less than seven minutes remaining accentuated a 15-3 run that gave the Aztecs control of the game.

The two teams meet again Thursday afternoon in a quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference tournament, and Saturday’s game wouldn’t have altered that schedule.

San Diego State aims to alter its track record in the NCAA tournament. When UNLV beat Kent State in the first round of the NCAAs a year ago, the Rebels did something the Aztecs have never done.

Win a game in the big tournament.

SDSU is 0-for-5 on the big stage.

Three years ago, Spain started against Indiana in a first-round game in Salt Lake City and watched the Aztecs take a 10-point lead early in the second half.

Then it dissolved, and Robert Vaden’s late 3-point shot helped the Hoosiers pull out an 87-83 victory over SDSU.

Spain scored eight points, and had four fouls, two rebounds and a pair of turnovers, in 18 minutes against Indiana.

“Oh man, I don’t even want to talk about that, sir,” Spain said. “We should have won that game. Indiana hit big-time shots with the clock winding down … I hope we can get back and win one.

“It would mean a lot to go to the NCAA tournament and win a game for the first time in the history of the program. I’d like to be a part of that.”

To return to the NCAAs, winning three in a row at the league tournament to secure the conference’s automatic bid, seems to be the only real avenue for Mountain West programs other than BYU and Utah.

Three years ago, the Aztecs (21-8, 11-5) beat UNLV (21-9, 9-7) twice in the regular season and in a semifinal of the MWC tournament in Denver, then won the title game to go to the NCAAs.

This season, SDSU has again defeated the Rebels twice during the conference schedule.

“When I went to the NCAAs as a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect,” Spain said. “That first year, I was just having fun.”

At UNLV’s expense, Spain continues to have fun. He had a game-high 17 points, and two key 3-pointers in overtime, in the Aztecs’ victory last month in Las Vegas.

Again, Saturday night, a pair of his 3-point shots helped keep the Rebels at bay.

Spain’s teammates and Las Vegas natives Lorrenzo Wade and Billy White were thankful for the breathing room against the program they grew up watching.

“He’s amazing,” White said. “We needed his ‘threes.’ I’m glad he hit them. They put us over the hump and we took over the game from there.”

Other than those two 3-pointers, Spain went 3-for-11 from the field. He also tied a season high with six turnovers.

“He didn’t shoot very well and he struggled with some turnovers, but he’s a guy who can bounce back and make it happen for our team,” Wade said.

“There definitely was a lot riding on this game, especially going into the conference tournament. You want to build as much momentum as you possibly can. Hopefully, it carries over to next week.”

Into the following week, too, for a program that has never won an NCAA tournament game.

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