Aztecs defeat UNLV in Mountain West Quarterfinals, 74-71 in OT

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

Thomas & Mack Center – University of Nevada Las Vegas

The San Diego State Aztecs and UNLV Runnin’ Rebels met for the Mountain West quarterfinals in Las Vegas! This battle came down to the wire, just as everyone predicted. Freshman Dedan Thomas Jr. attempted a three-pointer as time expired, which was very close to sending this contest to a second overtime.

“We were excited,” Trammell said postgame when Thomas Jr.’s shot missed at the end. “This is March. Games are going to be ugly but all that matters is we get the win and focus on the next game.”

Instead of another heroic from the UNLV freshman, San Diego State held on for the 3-point win.

“Just another night in the Mountain West,” head coach Brian Dutcher said postgame. “Every game is like this. Every one. It’s not a surprise that this went down to the wire. (Kruger) has done a great job with this UNLV team this year and they are really good.”

SDSU will now take on No. 1 Utah State for the semifinals Friday night.

Jaedon LeDee got the scoring started for SDSU after they missed their first seven shots of the contest. The Aztecs started slow offensively once again. The good news is that the defense started on the right foot. SDSU forced UNLV to commit two turnovers as Lamont Butler scored in transition on one of them. The game was tied at four at the U16 timeout.

As the first half went on, the offense didn’t improve on either side. Both teams were shooting 30% or below for the first nine minutes of the contest. SDSU started a miserable 5-17 as LeDee led with six points. Reese Waters checked in and missed three tough shots that almost fell. However, it was clear early on that Waters was trying to get involved in the scoring.

UNLV’s Justin Webster nailed his first three triples of the afternoon since checking into the game. He missed his final two and ended with just nine points.

The Rebels began to pull away and led by as many as 10 points with a few minutes remaining in the half. LeDee attempted the first free-throws of the half with just 2:20 remaining. He missed the first and made the second.

Right when it seemed as if UNLV would run away in the first half, Trammell and the Aztecs cut the lead to five thanks to a buzzer-beater from the senior guard.

UNLV led 27-22 at the break. A critical second half was looming.

LeDee started the scoring in the second half to bring the score within three. Trammell then drained a triple in Keylan Boone’s face to even the score at 34. Trammell started the second half on fire, hitting that shot and playing electric defense. He was crucial for the Aztecs’ success down the stretch.

Butler gave SDSU the lead on the very next possession, and then Trammell stole the ball, leading to an emphatic jam from Jay Pal. SDSU led by four which was their highest margin so far.

The Aztecs started the second half as well as you could have. They scored 19 points in five minutes to begin. LeDee and Trammell took over. They combined to score 25 points with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game. UNLV hadn’t scored a field goal in over five and a half minutes to that point.

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Right after that, SDSU proceeded to miss their following six shot attempts in a four-minute span. Here came the Runnin’ Rebels.

This Mountain West battle was coming down to the wire.

LeDee drained a three to put his point total at 24, and then, on the very next possession, Dedan Thomas Jr. swished a three of his own.

SDSU led 50-44 with nine minutes remaining.

San Diego State increased their lead to 10, and then just like that, UNLV went on a 7-0 run for themselves. Keylan Boone hit a three to cut the lead to three points with under four minutes remaining.

LeDee and Parrish proceeded to miss multiple free throws. Then, Dedan Thomas Jr. hit a shot with less than a second remaining to force overtime. That was the second clutch shot against SDSU this season by the freshman.

Thomas Jr. and UNLV scored the first four points of OT, and then SDSU stormed right back. Butler, Trammell, and LeDee did everything they could to make sure that Thomas Jr. would not win it for the Rebels on their home court again.

SDSU did just that. LeDee hit a free throw to go up three with 2.7 seconds left and the freshman missed the triple that would have tied it.

The Aztecs barely survived.

“The key to the game was rebounding,” Dutcher said postgame. “We took a major step forward on that when the Boone brother didn’t play. (Kalib) is a sensational rebounder. We outrebounded them 50-31 and had 25 offensive rebounds. That was the key to the game and that was the key we put up in the locker room.”

Now, the Aztecs take on the top team in the conference, No. 1 Utah State, as they try and move on with a chance to win back-to-back Mountain West Championships.

News & Stats

  • LeDee – 34 points, 16 rebounds, 17 fouls drawn
  • Trammell – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 for 4 from deep.
  • Butler – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 for 8 from the floor
  • Thomas Jr. – 29 points, 5 assists, 10-21 from the floor

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