unlv basketball:

UNLV makes the key plays down the stretch to hold off San Diego State 65-63

The Rebels led by as much as 13 in the second half, but the game wasn’t decided until Justin Hawkins’ last-second steal

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Sam Morris

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins gets the ball away from San Diego State guard Xavier Thames to clinch their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 65-63.

Rebels edge San Diego State

Rebels scrape by conference foe San Diego State, 65-63.

The Rebel Room

Rebels down San Diego State in final minute

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer talk about the UNLV basketball team's last-second victory against San Diego State. A sold-out crowd created a great atmosphere in one of the Rebels' most significant wins of the season.

UNLV vs. SDSU - Feb. 11, 2012

This is a three photo sequence of UNLV forward Mike Moser dunking on San Diego State forward Garrett Green during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 65-63. Launch slideshow »

Without a game all week, the hype and anticipation for Saturday afternoon’s game at the Thomas & Mack reached levels arguably not seen since the early '90s.

And somehow, the game delivered on those expectations.

After nearly blowing a double-digit lead in the second half, UNLV junior guard Justin Hawkins made a steal in the final seconds that clinched the 14th-ranked Rebels’ 65-63 victory against No. 13 San Diego State. It snapped the Aztecs’ six-game winning streak in the series and gave UNLV just its second victory in the last 11 meetings.

Nearly all of those games, including UNLV’s 69-67 loss in San Diego earlier this season, have gone down to the wire, just like Saturday.

“Every game has been just like this, where they could have gone either way, and it’s worked out for San Diego State,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Today was our day.”

Mike Moser led the team with 19 points, Oscar Bellfield had 15 points and six assists and Brice Massamba poured in 12 points, but the biggest plays came from other players who made up for deficiencies elsewhere in their performance.

It started with junior guard Anthony Marshall.

With just less than 1:30 to play, San Diego State’s Chase Tapley hit a 3-pointer that gave the Aztecs their first lead since early in the first half. They had trailed by as much as 13 points in the second half, but UNLV could never pull too far away.

On the Rebels’ next possession, Marshall missed a 3-pointer, part of an ugly stretch that saw UNLV shoot 0-for-6 behind the three-point line in the final 11 minutes.

Marshall then made up for it by sprinting out with the ball after Moser made a steal and finishing at the rim with a layup.

Marshall scored just five points on 2-of-9 shooting, but he dished out eight assists and that shot put UNLV ahead 64-63 with 37.6 seconds remaining.

Then it was Chace Stanback's turn.

With just a two-second difference between the game and shot clocks, San Diego State could have held on for a final shot. Instead, the Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin attacked the rim and Stanback knocked the ball out of bounds. On the ensuing play, the Aztecs went to Franklin again and once more Stanback reached in and knocked the ball away, this time giving possession to the Rebels.

Stanback scored just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, but those defensive stops were crucial.

“We did a really good job of staying together,” Bellfield said. “Everybody was dialed in through the end.”

Then it was Hawkins’ turn.

An Aztec foul put Stanback on the free-throw line for a one-and-one, up 64-63 with 13.7 seconds left. He missed off the back iron and as the ball sailed to the right side of the lane, the only player in the air to grab it was Hawkins.

“Franklin didn’t do a good job boxing me out and I just grabbed the ball and held on to it,” Hawkins said.

The Aztecs fouled him, and with 10.4 seconds left, it was now Hawkins with a one-and-one at the free-throw line. He hit the first, but with a chance to put UNLV ahead by three he couldn’t make the second.

So, he made up for it.

“I was kind of upset that I missed the second free throw, but I knew that I couldn’t give up on the play because there was seven seconds left,” Hawkins said. “When (Xavier Thames) got the ball I just knew that I had to either get a stop or make sure that he didn’t have a good shot.”

As Thames attempted to bring the ball up the court, Hawkins hounded him and forced him to change directions several times.

“I think that if I would have got back he would have had enough time to set-up, either get a ball screen or just penetrate and kick to somebody, so I was trying to waste time turning him back and forth,” Hawkins said. “When he went into that spin move, natural reaction just go for the ball.”

That set off the celebration at the sold-out Mack.

It was everything they had hoped for.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. What a game, the best I have been to in almost 20 years. Would have been better had they blown out SDSU but a win is a win and it keeps UNLV at the top. The Rebel defense was outstanding. Now we get to look forward to TCU on the road. The Rebels need to find a solution to their road issues.

  2. The turnaround by Mike Moser should give him confidence galore going forward. Did anyone mention the man finished with 6 steals and 4 blocks! That's at least as valuable as a double-double (which he was 1 rebound shy of). Great job Mike!

  3. wow, they really like to make us bite our nails down to the quick. but damn did they fight today, and whatever the flaws (of which there were many), this town should be very proud of the players and coaches. even the kids who had rough nights at the offensive end played their hearts out on D. stanback and marshall did what they had to when it counted, and the home crowd got off their asses--in the last two minutes especially--to help them.

    people have been saying for years that it'd never again be the way it was. maybe not, but it's getting close enough for this old school fan. fitting that coach tark and the 87 team were in the building to get their due and proper.

  4. Anyone else wondering what has happened to Chace Stanback? he made a couple of nice defensive plays at the end. But based on talent and shot-making ability, he should be the "go to" guy when we need a basket in crunchtime, and he has consistently shriveled into the background. He needs to step it up and be there game in and game out if we want to get to the next level. A good game every fourth game will not get it done Chace. Bring it!!! Go Rebels!!!

  5. Chace has had a tough time the last couple games getting open, but that's also due to the teams knowing he's a shooter above all else. This was another game where the 3's weren't falling, and we weren't getting to the line enough, but showed heart down to the final ticks.

  6. Rebel fans don't get to excited, if this is the best they have just wait until they play real talent in March.

  7. Yeah, just wait until they have to play the North Carolinas of the world. Oh wait...

  8. Although Chace has had a bit of a shooting slump lately due to the defense on him, I have full confidence that he'll figure a way around it soon and be shooting the lights out again, possibly at TCU or UNM this week. He just needs to remember that he can shoot over, under, around, etc, anybody, any time. And he's definitely made up for it with several late game defensive stops that have actually won the game. I'm proud of the whole team for stepping up and fighting to the end. Great game yesterday, amazing atmosphere, I hope we, as Rebel fans, can keep that going for a long time to come! Go Rebels, Let's Run!

  9. jesus, homer......because we haven't won any games against quality competition yet? did someone break your heart once? are you just scared to love again? if so, who gives a sh*t. no one here gives a hang about your incessant chicken little act.

  10. I say once we get done with SDSU and they leave, we don't play them anymore. Same goes for BYU, Utah and all of the turncoats. No reason to kill our RPI because they have been good for a couple of years. Let the "Big" West have them.