A furious second-half rally fizzled in the closing minutes as UNLV fell to #6 San Diego State 63-57 on Saturday before a sellout crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Runnin’ Rebels (18-7, 6-5 Mountain West Conference) trailed by 12 in the first half and 11 early in the second half before mounting a run that gave them a 55-54 lead with just over three minutes to play. But the Aztecs (25-1, 10-1) hit 9-of-10 free throws from that point while the Rebels tossed up brick-after-brick from three-point range. In fact, those two stats were a microcosm of the entire game, as the Aztecs finished 20-of-22 from the free throw line (91%) and the Rebels made only 1-of-15 three-point attempts, including o-of-10 in the second half. UNLV also struggled at the charity stripe, hitting only 12-of-19 in a game where points were at a premium.
San Diego State got another double-double from Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds despite shooting just 4-of-13 from the field. But point guard D.J. Gay was the key for the Aztecs, finishing with a game-high 20 points and hitting several clutch free throws in the closing minutes.
The Runnin’ Rebels were a far cry from the offensive juggernaut they were against TCU in their last game. After shooting more than 61% and putting up a season-high 94 points against the Horned Frogs, UNLV shot just 38% Saturday in failing to reach the 60-point mark, along with the aforementioned struggles from the three-point and free throw lines. Tre’Von Willis led the Rebels in scoring with 13 points, followed by Oscar Bellfield with 12. A bright spot for the Rebels was forward Brice Massamba, who came off the bench to contribute 11 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes, hitting all five of his shot attempts. In fact, it was the inside play of Massamba and stingy defense that keyed the Rebels’ second-half comeback.
Next up, the Rebels host Air Force on Tuesday night at 7:30.
Numbers of note: With the loss, the Rebels finish the regular season a combined 0-4 against the Mountain West Conference’s top two teams, San Diego State and BYU…UNLV’s only win this season against a currently-ranked team was vs. Wisconsin back on Nov. 20… UNLV is now a combined 2-for-33 from three-point range in its two games against San Diego State this season…San Diego State forward and Las Vegas native Billy White fouled out, finishing with just four points and three rebounds in 29 minutes.