UNLV BASKETBALL:

Healthy, patient Aztecs abuzz over NCAA hopes

SDSU players confident as ever in tournament berth after win over UNLV

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Sam Morris

San Diego State center Ryan Amoroso gets a rebound and two points against UNLV at the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament Thursday. San Diego State won the game 71-57.

One and Done

For the 3rd time this season UNLV lost to San Diego State. This game, the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament saw the Rebels lose 71 to 57.

Did All He Could

In his third game of the year against San Diego State, senior Wink Adams scored a season-high 26 points, but it wasn't enough as UNLV fell to the Aztecs in the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament 71-57.

UNLV vs. San Diego State

UNLV guard Wink Adams reacts to picking up a foul in their game against San Diego State at the Mountain West Conference basketball championships Thursday.  San Diego State won the game 71-57. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Nothing unexpected ...

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 71-57 loss to San Diego State in the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament, which more than likely punched the Rebels' dance ticket ... for the NIT. The guys discuss the lingering problems which could not be cured heading into the MWC tourney, and just how long fans can expect to see the Rebels hang around in whichever tournament they go to.

Beyond the Sun

The San Diego State hoops squad sat eerily silent in its locker room following a resounding 71-57 Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinal win against UNLV on Thursday afternoon.

In the back of the room, one Aztec broke the silence.

"Do you think we're in?" he asked to no one in particular, referring to SDSU's NCAA Tournament hopes, now with a school-record 22 wins, an 11-5 league record and a conference tourney win in its back pocket.

"This win has to say something -- it was on the road," one teammate replied.

"I think we're in," another Aztec said with sheer confidence.

Finally: "If we beat BYU, it takes care of everything," someone concluded.

The conversation, though, wouldn't have been going on had SDSU not taken care of the first order of business, doing something no other Mountain West team had done during the Lon Kruger era -- beat UNLV at the Mack in the league tournament. It was only UNLV's second opening round loss in school history. The other came in the WAC tournament in 1999.

"I'm not (ESPN 'bracketologist') Joe Lunardi, I don't know anything about RPIs and strength of schedule -- what we want to do is take it out of people's hands," SDSU senior forward Lorrenzo Wade said. "If we come in here and handle our business and win these next two games, we won't have to worry about anything on Selection Sunday.

"We know that it says Mountain West Conference on the floor, but we know this is Rebel nation. We had to come in here and buckle down defensively and go from there."

Wade, a Cheyenne High product, scored a team-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting as the Aztecs swept the season series from the Rebels.

They also completed a knockout combo to UNLV's depleted NCAA Tournament hopes, having dealt the first blow in the regular season finale in San Diego on Saturday.

As was the case a few days ago in the Cox Arena, SDSU put its size and athleticism to work. While the rebounding battle went in UNLV's favor this time around, SDSU made more of its opportunities underneath, outscoring the Rebels in the paint, 36-14.

Several points early came on open layups, which were results of patience on offense and spreading UNLV's defensive sets. The patience resulted in an assist-to-turnover ratio for the game of 19:7. Meanwhile, SDSU's defense wouldn't allow UNLV to find flow, as the Rebels had only five assists for the game to 11 turnovers.

The Aztecs also had the benefit of being healthier this time around than they had been in the first two meetings with the Rebels.

On Feb. 3, a 68-66 overtime victory, sophomore forward Tim Shelton sat, while senior forward Ryan Amoroso was not at full strength, battling a bad back.

On Saturday, Green Valley High grad Billy White, a 6-8 sophomore forward, didn't make much noise off the bench in his return from a hyperextended left knee.

On Thursday, all hands were on deck.

"Everybody's back, nobody's feeling injured," White said. "I came back from the injury, everybody's feeling good. Initially, I think we were just stronger and ready to win."

Added Wade: "It's always good to have somebody back like BIlly. He's the most youthful, athletic player on our team, and he creates such a problem on the defensive end. He's our mini-Hasheem Thabeet. He blocks a lot of shots. Having him in there, it makes my job, makes Kyle (Spain)'s job and makes Richie (Williams)'s job a lot easier."

Of course, Connecticut's Thabeet is the most intimidating defensive post player in the nation, but White's presence has certainly been felt by UNLV on that end of the floor this season.

In the first meeting, he altered a Joe Darger 3-point attempt at the end of regulation, which could have won it for the Rebels.

He had two blocks on Thursday to go with his 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 27 minutes.

"I didn't expect them to miss like they were," White said. "At first, they weren't making shots and we were playing real good defense. We didn't want to go home, we wanted to stay here."

Now, the Aztecs have an opportunity to take out some revenge on BYU in Friday's first semifinal at 6 p.m.

Back on Feb. 25, BYU overcame a 14-point second half deficit to take down SDSU in the Cox Arena, 69-59.

The Aztecs were also without White for that contest.

"They went to a bit of a zone that threw us off in the second half," Wade said, looking back. "We knocked down shots today and hopefully we continue to hit shots the rest of the tournament."

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  1. That is good for SDSU. Lorenzo Wade is busy stealing TVs from Dorms and he gets his chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Good job guys. Steve Fisher kills me with his discipline of these kids. He has more weak suspensions of players than any coach I know. Show some integrity man!