Published Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 | 11:59 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 | 3:14 p.m.
Final. SDSU wins 68-58
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Almost as if the two days after Wednesday's home loss to No. 15 New Mexico never happened, the No. 23 Rebels were again had by San Diego State in a game similar to the 10-point loss to the Lobos.
The Aztecs weren't on fire from deep quite like New Mexico was, but they made UNLV uncomfortable on the offensive end and used momentum-changing plays from the likes of freshman forward Kawhi Leonard and Green Valley High grad Billy White to place themselves squarely back in the hunt for an at-large NCAA tourney berth with the 68-58 win.
UNLV (19-6 overall, 7-4 Mountain West) and SDSU (18-7, 7-4) are now tied in the league standings with five games to go.
The Rebels are back in action on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. contest at Utah.
Lon Kruger's club was just 19-of-54 from the floor and 3-of-17 from long range. Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback, who are the team's two top scorers on the season, were a combined 5-of-22 from the floor, with Stanback fouling out after missing on all seven of his shot attempts.
UNLV was also again out-rebounded, 39-30.
Meanwhile, Leonard finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Aztecs, while White led all scorers with 19.
Anthony Marshall scored 12 points for UNLV in his second career start, while Tre'Von Willis led the Rebels with 17 — most of those came after the game was out of reach late.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos and video, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:56, second half, SDSU leads 59-48
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Tre'Von Willis recently hit a 3-pointer atop the key to end nearly an eight-minute drought for UNLV without a field goal. In the grand scheme, though, it didn't do much, as the Rebels trail at San Diego State, 59-48, with less than four minutes to play.
Willis and Chace Stanback — UNLV's two leading scorers this season — are a combined 3-for-17 from the floor today.
Meanwhile, Billy White has continued to torch his hometown school with 17 points, highlighted by an and-one dunk underneath during UNLV's drought. Alongside him, freshman forward Kawhi Leonard threw down a poster slam against Darris Santee and how has 13 points to go with 13 rebounds.
11:38, second half, SDSU leads 46-38
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The Rebels started the second half hot and with some edge, scoring five points right out of the break to close to within three points of the Aztecs. They showed some nice edge and attitude in the process.
But thanks to a monster slam in traffic by Kawhi Leonard and, most recently, a deep 3-pointer from Kelvin Davis, the Aztecs continue to hold the visitors at arm's length, leading 46-38.
UNLV is now shying away some from pulling the trigger on open 3-pointers, as the Rebels are just 2-of-11 from deep today.
The x-factor for SDSU has been the free throw shooting of Billy White. He leads all scorers with 13, and is 9-of-10 from the stripe.
Halftime, SDSU leads 33-25
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — For the third consecutive half of basketball, UNLV has failed to dictate the pace of the game, and as a result the Aztecs hold a solid 33-25 lead over the Rebels at the break at Viejas Arena.
SDSU was just 10-of-26 from the floor and committed eight turnovers, but on the defensive end, the Aztecs blocked seven shots and six offensive rebounds turned into seven second-chance points for Steve Fisher's club.
Green Valley High grad Billy White leads all scorers with nine points for SDSU, hitting five of his six free throw attempts.
Some more numbers of note from the first half in San Diego ...
— UNLV is just 10-of-30 from the floor and 1-of-7 from 3-point range.
— Tre'Von Willis is 1-of-7 from the floor, 0-for-2 from deep and has just two points.
— Freshman guard Anthony Marshall, making his second career start, has been a catalyst for the Rebels, with eight points, a rebound and a blocked shot to his credit. He's shown great effort on the defensive end, too.
— UNLV had six assists to seven turnovers in the first half.
— Overall, SDSU holds a 22-16 edge in rebounds so far. Freshman forward Kawhi Leonard leads all players with eight.
3:36, first half, SDSU leads 29-21
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — UNLV continues to struggle to find rhythm and flow on the offensive end, while San Diego State created a bit of separation for itself thanks to a pair of key 3-pointers.
After Matt Shaw pulled down a defensive board in traffic, he had the ball slapped away from him by Malcolm Thomas. The result moments later was a Chase Tapley 3-pointer atop the key, which came on the heels of two Thomas free throws out of the last TV timeout.
Then after, the Rebels failed to answer, freshman forward Kawhi Leonard hit a deep ball of his own from atop the key, creating a nine-point lead for the Aztecs at 26-17.
UNLV has missed two 3-point tries since then, is 1-of-5 from deep and 9-of-26 from the floor.
7:37, first half, SDSU leads 18-17
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — If it weren't for turnovers and poor decisions, San Diego State's big men could have complete control of this game right now.
But with seven giveaways and questionable shot selection leading to 6-of-16 shooting so far for the Aztecs, UNLV trails by just one at Viejas Arena, 18-17.
UNLV is only 8-of-21 from the floor, but Matt Shaw recently benefitted from a pair of failures to grab loose balls by the Aztecs after blocked shots. He converted back-to-back layups.
The equalizer could be free throw shooting. The Aztecs aren't the sharpest club in the world in that area, and now find themselves in the bonus with almost eight minutes left to play in the first half.
11:48, first half, SDSU leads 14-11
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — UNLV got a nice boost from Anthony Marshall to start the game, as the freshman guard's presence early helped combat San Diego State's athleticism for a bit.
He had a huge block on Green Valley High grad Billy White which turned into an Oscar Bellfield 3-pointer on the other end, putting UNLV up early, 5-2.
However, after that, SDSU rattled off a 10-2 run and the Rebels are still recovering.
UNLV is 5-of-12 from the floor and just 1-of-3 from 3-point range with four turnovers already. The Rebels also already have six team fouls to their credit.
Marshall has four points early, while White has six for the Aztecs.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The newspapers draped over the backs of every single seat in the San Diego State student section at Viejas Arena say it all.
'BEAT UNLV,' each one reads.
For the Aztecs, it's really that simple if they want to be truly considered in discussions for an at-large NCAA tournament bid, should the Mountain West Conference get two at-larges on top of its automatic.
Right now, BYU and New Mexico are safely in no matter what, more than likely. UNLV is closest behind those two, but still has a chance to leap-frog both of them in the standings by both winning out and getting a little bit of help.
In terms of the bigger picture, today's 1 p.m. contest between No. 23 UNLV (19-5 overall, 7-3) and San Diego State (17-7, 6-4), it probably means more to the Aztecs, who have a much weaker regular season resumé than their counterpart. But that doesn't mean it can be questioned how badly the Rebels want it in helping atone for Wednesday's 76-66 loss at home to No. 15 New Mexico.
Before moving forward, I'll recount a conversation I had with a friend of mine from Kansas on Thursday ...
Friend: Is UNLV in the tourney as an at-large right now?
Me: Well, they should win their last four games. A lot rides on the next two — at San Diego State and at Utah. If they win both, they're a lock. If they win one, they're still probably OK. If they lose both ... well ... they probably need to at least reach the title game of the MWC tourney.
Friend: You're a gentleman and a scholar.
(OK, that last part didn't happen)
Here are today's three keys to UNLV victory at SDSU ...
1) Did I mention rebounding?? No need to delve into that much more.
2) San Diego State is every bit as capable as New Mexico of building an early lead. If they do, the Rebels cannot panic like they did on Wednesday in terms of rushing on offense and settling for contested 3-pointers. One thing UNLV did very well on Wednesday was not give away possessions, finishing with 19 assists and six turnovers. That needs to repeat, but the shot selection needs to be better.
3) Anthony Marshall absolutely needs to step up. If he's going to get more minutes and even start, he has to use that athleticism where UNLV needs it the most — in the rebounding department. Plus, I'll say it, he's just one 3-point make away from his confidence being completely back in his jump shot. If he can hit an open look early, look for him to blossom moving forward.
As for today's prediction and 'Pick to Click' I'm going with San Diego State on its home floor in a squeaker, 71-69. Until I see UNLV bounce back from Wednesday with some more aggressive rebounding, it's hard to pick them in a tough, tough road game. But, they're 8-1 this season in true road games, so I could wind up looking stupid.
As far as a 'Pick to Click', I'm taking Chace Stanback. He readily admitted that he played an awful game on Wednesday against New Mexico and was pretty invisible for 34 minutes. He won't do it again.
Talk to you after tip-off.