LAS VEGAS -- UNLV shot inconsistently, blew a 13-point lead
late in the second half and went more than four minutes without
scoring a point.
But Mike Moser made a key steal late that gave the
Runnin' Rebels (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) just enough defense to sneak past San Diego State (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) 65-63 Saturday.
"When you lose a game like this, you feel like a piece of your
heart was ripped out," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said.
Moser scored 19 points, while UNLV (22-4, 6-2 Mountain West)
forced three turnovers in the final 42 seconds to win.
San Diego State (20-4, 6-2) didn't score again, despite several
chances to tie or take the lead.
Tapley finished with 22 points, 16 in the second half.
"In the last two minutes, we started guarding the way we're
supposed to," said UNLV guard Justin Hawkins, who came up with a
steal in the final second to stop the Aztecs.
"I think we showed we want to be Mountain West champions," he
The Rebels and Aztecs split their conference series for the
season, each team earned a two-point win. They won't face each
other again unless they meet in the conference tournament in Las
Vegas next month.
Moser missed his first five shots of the game before finding his
touch at the end of the first half, scoring nine points during a
15-4 run that put the Rebels up 37-29 at halftime.
UNLV's Bryce Massamba paced the Rebels at the start of the
second half, scoring his team's first 10 points. But San Diego
State's defense kept the Rebels scoreless over a four-minute
stretch while Tapley brought his team back from an 11-point
"We had a chance to win, and we came up short," Tapley said.
UNLV's defense bailed out its poor shooting. UNLV shot less than
41 percent for the game, and made just one of 11 3-point attempts
and one of five free throws during the second half.
Chace Stanback and Marshall -- UNLV's second- and third-leading
scorers coming into the game -- combined for a total of four field
goals and just one 3 in eight attempts.
"We let down a little bit and our shots weren't falling. We
lost focus," said Oscar Bellfield, who finished with 15 points.
"We just stuck together and closed it out."
UNLV coach Dave Rice said his team counts on defense when his
players are doing well.
"The bottom line is we never quit playing," he said.
UNLV missed eight of its first 10 shots, but San Diego State was
unable to extend its lead beyond 6 points less than six minutes
into the game.
Xavier Thames hit a long 3 for the Aztecs as the half ended, but
didn't release the ball in time to allow the basket to count.
Jamaal Franklin finished with 15 points for the Aztecs.
Moser had nine rebounds, one shy of recording his 14th
double-double of the year.