Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 | 5 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 | 9:13 p.m.
Final, SDSU wins 55-49
SAN DIEGO — Kawhi Leonard again killed UNLV with 15 points and 17 rebounds, and No. 6 San Diego State remained undefeated on the season with a 55-49 victory over UNLV on Wednesday night at Viejas Arena.
Leonard and fellow forward Malcolm Thomas combined for 33 rebounds, while UNLV only had 31 as a team, as that category again told the story in a slowed-down slugfest between the two growing rivals.
Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis took plenty of shots in the second half that could have kept UNLV within range, but were just a combined 8-of-28 from the floor as the Rebels failed to score 50 points in a game for the first time this season.
It was an ugly, heated game that included three technical fouls on both sides and plenty of chatter on the floor.
The Rebels are now 13-4 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West, and will head on the road again Saturday for a matinee tilt with Air Force.
Anthony Marshall led the Rebels with 11 points, while Oscar Bellfield scored 10. UNLV was just 22-of-61 from the floor and an ugly 1-of-18 from 3-point range.
For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:47, Second Half, SDSU leads 50-45
SAN DIEGO — You have to credit UNLV for being in the position it's in right now heading into the game's final few minutes, trailing No. 6 San Diego State just 50-45.
The Rebels found themselves down by as many as 12 points earlier in the half, but Tre'Von Willis hit the team's first 3-pointer, and Chace Stanback got a couple of looks to finally fall.
The key for UNLV, though, is that it can't string enough buckets together to make a true run. Stanback and Willis are a combined 8-of-24 from the floor and 1-of-8 from deep.
The killer stat so far for SDSU is on the glass, as Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard have combined for 27 caroms, while UNLV has 24 as a team.
11:30, Second Half, SDSU leads 44-32
SAN DIEGO — UNLV's outside shooting is continuing to sputter, and as it has for much of the season, SDSU is beginning to thrive offensively in the second half.
Billy White just hit back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Aztecs the game's first double-digit lead at 40-30, and every try the Rebels have made to answer with an outside shot is bouncing out.
Chace Stanback is 2-of-12 from the floor and 0-for-3 from deep, while on the other end, Kawhi Leonard is calling for the ball, talking smack and clearly in the mood to take this game over.
Leonard, in front of several NBA scouts, now has 11 points and 14 rebounds.
UNLV badly needs a run of some kind soon, or this could get out of hand in front of a crowd that is growing louder by the SDSU score.
SAN DIEGO — It's become apparent that if UNLV is going to pull off the upset and beat No. 6 San Diego State, they'll be doing so at the Aztecs' pace.
In a slugfest of a first half, the Rebels hung tough and trail 28-26 at the break.
UNLV is 0-for-9 from 3-point range and offense is coming tough. Lon Kruger's club has been out-rebounded 21-13.
However, the Rebels are taking care of the basketball and getting production from some unlikely places.
They're doing a strong job defensively, as SDSU is 10-of-29 from the floor and 1-of-9 from deep with six turnovers.
Two Rebels to watch in the second half will be Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis.
Stanback will start the second half on the floor with three fouls, and will have to be a bit careful ... especially while matched up with Billy White.
Willis was just 1-of-4 from the floor in the first half and quiet overall. He hasn't been gobbled up mentally by the student section that is all over him every time he touches the ball, but has to simply do more if he's going to play such bit minutes.
3:34, First Half, SDSU leads 24-22
SAN DIEGO — Scoring-wise, not much has changed in terms of tonight's game being incredibly back-and-forth.
With 3:34 to go in the first half, SDSU holds a slim 24-22 edge, but the Rebels took a big blow on the stat sheet just a moment ago.
SDSU's Kawhi Leonard was fouled hard by Chace Stanback on the way up for a second-chance bucket, and the result was a scuffle underneath the bucket that delayed the game for five minutes while the refs sorted things out via replay.
The result was four technicals, two for each team. Brice Massamba and Stanback were hit for the Rebels, while Billy White and Chase Tapley got them for the Aztecs. That gave Stanback three fouls all of a sudden, and one of UNLV's top offensive options tonight is all of a sudden handcuffed.
Keeping things interesting for UNLV is the play of Anthony Marshall, who has a game-high seven points so far, scoring in a variety of ways. He looks much more aggressive and comfortable offensively tonight than he did in this road game as a freshman.
UNLV is playing a good half overall, only turning the ball over three times to this point. The glaring omission is the lack of a 3-pointer, as the Rebels are 0-for-7 tonight. However, the streak is probably the last thing on anyone's mind tonight.
11:22, First Half, SDSU leads 15-13
SAN DIEGO — UNLV is certainly not rattled mentally by the raucous atmosphere tonight at Viejas Arena, but the big men are struggling to yank away boards inside, as Malcolm Thomas has already taken three away from the Rebels after the ball looked to be going the other way.
It's been a strong back-and-forth battle so far, with neither team leading by more than four to this point, and SDSU holds a 15-13 edge on UNLV at the second TV break.
To this point, UNLV has been out-boarded 10-4, but Rebels reserve big Carlos Lopez deserves some credit for his major early minutes. Brice Massamba picked up a foul on the game's second possession and took a seat, and Lopez filled in with seven quality minutes.
The key to so far for the Rebels is a lack of turnovers. They have yet to commit one, while the Aztecs have registered three. If UNLV can keep playing clean ball, it appears they'll be in this for the long haul.
One thing to note so far is Tre'Von Willis, who is getting the worst treatment from an opposing student section that he's seen since Illinois State in early December. That night, he fed off of it greatly. Can he do it again tonight?
SAN DIEGO — After BYU's Jimmer Fredette exploded for 47 points on Tuesday night in a 104-79 blowout of Utah, his name picked up even more steam than it already had in terms of potential National Player of the Year honors.
But is he the best player in the Mountain West Conference?
It can be argued that just as valuable to his team is San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard, who UNLV has to try and tame tonight at 7 p.m. at Viejas Arena.
Fredette is now the nation's leading scorer, and, yes, is the primary reason why the Cougars are 17-1 and ranked 11th in the nation.
Leonard, meanwhile, is the driving force between San Diego State being 17-0 and ranked sixth.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore has had an NBA body since the first day he arrived on campus, but now has an even more well-rounded game to go with it. He leads the Aztecs in scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg) and has posted 10 double-doubles so far this year.
In the one game he didn't play due to the flu, the Aztecs were pushed to the brink in a 51-45 victory over Cal Poly.
The one major hole in his game a year ago was consistent mid-range and outside shooting, which would help make him a solid first round pick in the 2011 NBA draft. It's come along, despite only minor bumps in his field goal percentage, and Leonard is now a true all-around weapon.
As the MWC Freshman of the Year, he didn't torment any of his eight league opponents quite as successfully as UNLV, though. In three games a year ago, he averaged 14 points and 15 rebounds against the Rebels, including a pair of wins and a MWC tournament crown.
With that said, lets jump into the three things to watch for tonight as UNLV and No. 6 SDSU square off …
1) In UNLV's last two games — one win, one loss — the Rebels have unleashed big mid-first half runs, with a 13-0 spurt against BYU and a crippling 24-0 jaunt against TCU on Saturday night. The sparks of both runs were sophomore reserve guards Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins. In Saturday's run, Hawkins had six points, three steals and several quality defensive possessions. Marshall, meanwhile, is averaging 14.2 points per game in his last five efforts after getting back to slashing first and shooting from the outside second on offense. If UNLV is to have success against SDSU tonight, the duo will have to bring that same energy off of the bench during the middle portion of the opening 20 minutes.
2) Rebounding. Duh. UNLV was out-rebounded by a margin of 120-91 in the three games against SDSU last season combined. That pretty much tells it all, so no need to write another paragraph about it. The Rebels just have to board better.
3) UNLV forced TCU's Ronnie Moss into 10 turnovers on Saturday night. No one is expecting SDSU's D.J. Gay to do the same, as he's become a much more polished point guard over the last two seasons than he was as a sophomore combo performer. But the Rebels are going to try to force him into miscues, which in turn could bump up the pace of the game, which favors UNLV. If Gay avoids giving away possessions, San Diego State will have a good chance to slow the game down and make the Rebels uncomfortable instead.
As for a prediction, based on history in recent years, I'm taking SDSU in a close one, 70-65. My UNLV Pick to Click tonight will be Oscar Bellfield. I think he's due for a strong offensive night now that his right wrist appears to be closer to 100 percent.
That's all from me for now, as I'm expecting this place to be pretty insane tonight. I'll be back with more on both the game and the atmosphere shortly after tip-off.
For even more updates, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ryanmgreene, or join the in-game conversation below by adding the #unlvmbb hashtag to your UNLV-SDU tweets.