LIVE GAME BLOG: Final:

San Diego State outlasts UNLV to advance to MWC title game, 74-72

D.J. Gay hits game-winning shot from up close with 4.9 seconds remaining to give Aztecs the win

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Sam Morris

UNLV’s Tre’von Willis works against San Diego State’s Kawai Leonard during Friday’s Mountain West Conference Tournament game at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Friday, March 11, 2011 | 10:40 p.m.

MWC Tourney: UNLV vs. SDSU

UNLV forward Quintrell Thomas lies on the hardwood after the Rebels were beat by San Diego State in their Mountain West Conference Championship game Friday, March 11, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. San Diego State won 74-72 and will play BYU in the finals on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

MWC Tournament - BYU vs. New Mexico

BYU guard Jimmer Fredette celebrates after defeating New Mexico 87-76 in their Mountain West Conference Championship game Friday, March 11, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

Final, SDSU wins 74-72

UNLV had a shot at the go-ahead bucket with less than 30 seconds to play, but a lob toss to Chace Stanback was broken up, setting the stage for San Diego State's eight win in nine tries against the Rebels in the last three years.

D.J. Gay controlled the ball, knifed the lane and hit a floater with 4.9 seconds remaining to give San Diego State a 74-72 victory over UNLV.

The Rebels will head into Selection Sunday knowing they're in the NCAA tournament's field of 68 with a record of 24-8, but now will be flirting with landing in the dreaded No. 8 or No. 9 slot in one of the four regions.

San Diego State advances to face BYU in tomorrow's 4 p.m. title game at the Mack. The Aztecs, now 31-2, suffered their only two losses of the regular season against BYU.

Kawhi Leonard led the Aztecs with 18 points, while D.J. Gay's late jumper gave him 15.

Chace Stanback led all scorers with 22 points for UNLV in the loss, while Tre'Von Willis scored 19. UNLV was 25-of-55 from the floor and 5-of-15 from deep, and out-rebounded SDSU 32-31.

For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.

3:39, Second Half, game tied 66-66

Foul trouble is starting to play into things in a big way here at the Mack, as UNLV and San Diego State are tied, 66-66, with 3:39 left to play in a heated battle.

Kawhi Leonard has four fouls for San Diego State after Tre'Von Willis drove at him time after time to draw them. Both teams are in the double-bonus in the closing minutes.

Willis now has a game-high 19 points in one of his strongest offensive performances of the season, while Chace Stanback has 18.

UNLV's defense has remained strong throughout the half, as San Diego State is just 8-of-21 from the floor since the break.

The game was tied just before the last TV timeout when Billy White was called for goaltending on a Chace Stanback layup attempt in transition.

11:44, Second Half, San Diego State leads 55-51

The Rebels have started to lock in on the defensive end, which was an issue for them in the first 20 minutes.

In turn, UNLV has closed back within range of UNLV, trailing 55-51 with 11:44 left to play at the Mack.

The Aztecs are just 3-of-12 from the floor this half as everything has been contested so far, and the Rebels also feasted on a lineup without Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas on the floor.

On offense, Anthony Marshall has started to take charge a bit, earning two big trips to the free throw line and also throwing down a two-handed dunk for his second bucket of the game. Tre'Von Willis had a huge and-one lay-up to start the half.

An interesting trend to watch down the stretch will be San Diego State's free throw shooting, as the Aztecs are already in the bonus. So far tonight, they are 10-of-12 from the stripe.

Statistically, UNLV is 20-of-43 from the floor, 4-of-10 from deep and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. SDSU currently owns a 26-21 edge in the rebounding department.

Halftime, San Diego State leads 44-34

Chace Stanback, who combined for 13 points in the two regular season meetings with San Diego State, went on a personal 14-point run to help UNLV get close to the Aztecs late in the first half.

And a late spurt by SDSU helped the tournament's No. 2 seed spread it right back out for a 44-34 halftime edge at the Mack.

Stanback was 6-of-9 from the floor in his 16 minutes on the floor, while the rest of the team is 8-of-22 and lacking the flow it's shown in a six-game win streak leading into tonight's nightcap.

Tre'Von Willis is 3-of-9 with eight points, three assists and three steals, but that's about the end of the positives for the Rebels, who are again struggling against the Aztecs' length and athleticism.

For SDSU, D.J. Gay has snuck up again and been an offensive terror. The Aztecs' floor general has 11 points off of 3-of-3 shooting from deep, while Las Vegas native Billy White is leading the way with 12.

UNLV grabbed a lead with 5:33 to go in the opening stanza, but the Aztecs closed on a tear. Gay hit his third trifecta, then Billy White scored four huge points in the closing minute. He got a layup in transition, but was fouled by Justin Hawkins while putting it up. The foul was ruled intentional, making it a 4-point play for SDSU.

The Rebels still look OK on offense in terms of production, but are getting eaten up on the defensive end, which is a bit of a rarity. That's where a comeback will have to start.

10:22, First Half, San Diego State leads 18-11

UNLV is just 5-of-15 early on from the floor early on, and the offensive flow that BYU has had in bulk of late is nowhere to be seen so far.

The Rebels are banging successfully with the Aztecs underneath, with the rebounding battle tied at 10-10, but UNLV is just 1-of-4 from the outside and did not get off to the hot start and early lead it wanted on these guys.

The problem right now is that SDSU is a tough team to play against from behind.

SDSU, meanwhile, is getting a focused showing so far from Billy White. The hometown product has six points and three offensive rebounds in the game's first 10 minutes. He's under control emotionally, which is the most important part right now for the Aztecs.

Pregame

Well, the night already has a leg up on last year's legendary semifinal Friday night at the Mountain West Conference tournament.

BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who is likely well on his way to National Player of the Year honors, scored an incredible 52 points in leading BYU to an 87-76 victory over New Mexico in the night's first game. The Cougars advance to the 4 p.m. Saturday league title game.

Who they face is yet to be determined, as UNLV and San Diego State are getting set to tip off for that right.

Before it gets going, here's three things I'll be watching for tonight from the Mack.

1) Here's the moment of truth for the improved Quintrell Thomas. He's played well of late in wins over Air Force, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. But can he finally do it against San Diego State? He's played 15 minutes in the two regular season meetings combined and been generally ineffective. That has to change for the Rebels to have a legitimate shot tonight.

2) Even though SDSU beat Utah by 14 in comfortable fashion last night, the Aztecs were sloppy. They got sped up and out of their element a bit, and it appears that late in the season, all of the leaning on D.J. Gay has had its effect on the SDSU offense. Can UNLV get things up and down like Utah did? If so, the game will play right into the Rebels' favor.

3) UNLV tied a season-high with 11 3-point makes last night. They don't need to hit 11 again tonight to win, but have to do better than the 2-for-33 they are in two games against SDSU this season. No question about it. Chace Stanback's had a tough career against these guys, and needs to bust the slump tonight.

As for a prediction and Pick to Click, I'm taking UNLV, 67-60. Why? Well, they're due and playing better heading into this one than they were heading into the first two meetings. My Pick to Click is Anthony Marshall. He had a rough night last night and rarely has two in a row this season, no matter who the opponent is.

Remember, to join the conversation below via Twitter, add the #unlvmbb hashtag to your in-game tweets, or give me a follow at twitter.com/ryanmgreene. Talk to you after tip-off.

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  1. We look sluggish on defense.

  2. It's easy to second guess, but the ball should have been in O's hands for that last play. He's shown that he can drive it the length of the floor to beat the buzzer. Like against UNM this year or Louisville two years ago.

  3. You won't hear it often from me, but UNLV actually looked like a basketball team tonight. I was a little surprised that they went back to the alley oop play with the game on the line, but if it would have worked then everyone would have said great play call. I personally would have selected something else to go to with the game on the line.

  4. I think Lon Kruger needs to start calling Steve Fisher daddy becauase Fisher absolutely owns him. I feel like UNLV finally started running some plays on offense this game and had early success. But then Kruger decided to keep going with the same plays over and over. I knew that Kruger was going to run that backdoor allyoop to close the game. Then with 4 seconds left UNLV looked absolutely lost and didn't know what to do when they still had a shot to win it. At least UNLV can save themselves the embarrassment of having Jimmer drop 55 on them tomorrow night, because we all know that's what he was going to do. I predict UNLV will get an 8 seed in the tournament and will be one and done like last year. I just don't have the same confidence in this team going into the tournament like i did with the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 teams. UNLV has had no quality wins in last three months. Every opporuntiy they've had to show that they are a good legit team and they've blown it to BYU and San Diego St.

  5. Also, I don't know why Kruger decided to go with such a quick score on that possession. He should have ran the clock down to about 5-6 seconds and then shot, giving themselves enough time to get a put back if they missed but no time for San Diego State to get a shot off. Worse case scenario they could have gone into overtime. Bad coaching the last minute of the game.

  6. The players played hard, we hit our free-throws, we shot a good percentage from 3 and the field, they played a good game.

    As for Kruger, I think it was the same old stubborn coaching. It would have been a great strategy to put a zone on these guys. BYU does it and SDST. can barely score 60 points. Instead we got to watch Willis try to defend Leonard in the post. Q. plays the first 4 minutes of the second half and doesn't come back until the last 4 minutes of the game. Last night he gets 5 blocks and a bunch of rebounds, tonight he can get more than a 4 minute stretch in the game. I bet he has nightmares of his decision coming here.

  7. Tough loss, SDSU was the better team tonight, they came out looking to win. We played well, they just stole one from us.

    www.RebelReign.com

  8. I wouldn't call that much of a lob. It works if its a better pass. I wouldn't fault anyone, like it was said, they all played hard, and DJ Gay made one more play. If willis could have looked up sooner, he would have seen QT standing alone underneath basket. But thats the way it goes.
    We are fine, if we get the one seed, we have to beat the one eventually, although I think UNLV will be a 7. If you beat the one seed, you then become the one seed.

  9. Does anyone have 2 tickets for sale to Saturday's game?

  10. I can't be too upset about this one because we played well. We shot the ball well and played with great energy, but we just got beat. I agree with everyone that the set play at the end was ridiculous. I would have been happy to work the ball around and try to get an open 3 with 2-4 seconds left on the shot clock, but it is what it is.

    Unlike mj, I'm actually somewhat encouraged going into the tournament. SDSU is a legit Top 10 team. One of the best things I saw was Chace FINALLY bring it against a top team! He has disappeared in a lot of big games between the Wisconsin game and this one and it was good to see him show up. Even with this loss, we still looked pretty good and I wouldn't be shocked to see a Sweet 16 run. We'll probably get an 8 seed, but what Number 1 seeds have looked unbeatable? ZERO.

  11. For whoever wants tickets, stay away from the scalpers near the Mack. They are getting abusive and violent. Thanks to the cops for throwing them out of the building and off property. Speaking of abusive, I bet that crybaby Alford is still complaining about the "amazing" advantage UNLV has in having the MWC tourney here. What an idiot. Get over yourself.

  12. Krugers coaching against sdst reminds me of Jerry sienfields character in the bee movie. As he flys into the glass of a closed window he just gets up and says this time, this time, this time, as he repeiditly runs into the glass with the same result. Adapt or keep losing. Your style is great but not against them. As for how we played we would have beat 99% of teams with that game. Sdst and byu better make it to the final four or we have no excuse for why we lost five time against them. They are not that much better than us.

  13. That was a tough one. All the previous Kruger bashing on the last play we now know is devoid of substance since it was Oscar's decision to throw it...and it WAS open...Oscar just threw a terrible pass on the first of several options in that set. But he was pretty sub par all game anyway....wouldve been nice to have him play better. It was the right call to run our stuff right out of the timeout...No Chance we get a good look holding the ball until 7 secs left...not with their length & athleticism defensively...make'em play D for the full 30secs & see what breaks open. Or we could just throw it away 5 secs in like we did. lol I swear, that sums up this yrs team! But the concept is still solid given we dont have anybody who can break anybody down off the dribble except Marshall & his shot is so-so. Yeah, we lost at the buzzer to a top 10 team and that sucks. But I'll take solace in the fact we shot 94% from the line! There is a God! lol

  14. Patticus, I agree with you about Kruger's subbing decisions. He has done it all year and it hasn't really worked. I don't know why he goes with this three-headed monster rotation with the big men. I think he should just play whoever is playing the hottest at the time. Let Thomas, Lopez, or Massamba get into a rythm instead of pulling them every 4 minutes for the other. At this point in the season Thomas is playing the best but Kruger didn't let him get into a groove last night. There were long stretches where you didn't see him on the court. Lopez looked lost out there against San Diego St and Massamba contributed nothing like he usually does. Thomas needs to be getting at least 25-30 minutes a game. He is averaging about 15 minutes/game this season. I've said time and time again Massamba is worthless and Lopez is still developing.

  15. mj,

    I totally agree that Thomas should get 25-30 minutes and that UNLV shouldn't have gone with the quick score at the end. But look at what SDSU did to BYU today. The Aztecs demolished BYU and Jimmer didn't score the 55 that you predicted. We gave a REALLY good SDSU team a run for their money so I think it's silly to predict that we're going to lose to a 9 seed in the first round. I think we're at least a 7 and with our recent streak of hot shooting and confidence, we're going to be a tough team to beat.

    ...a potential No. 1 or 2 seed BARELY did.