Aztecs improve to 2-0 in Mountain West with 72-61 win over UNLV

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT Sports

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs took down the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in strong fashion at Viejas Arena in front of what looked like a sold-out crowd.

“I was very pleased with our effort tonight,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “This is a very good UNLV team who are improving. They are getting better and we knew it would be a challenge tonight. We got off to the kind of start we knew we would have to against a good team.”

The Aztecs improved to (13-2) on the season and (2-0) in conference play. UNLV falls to (7-6) and (0-1) in the Mountain West.

The Runnin’ Rebels are a much better team than their record shows. They have dealt with injuries and transfer regulations to begin the season. Now, they are just finding their groove. They haven’t had their full roster for the entire season, and they likely won’t. Jalen Hill (11.5 ppg) suffered a lower-body injury in the first half of this contest and left the game in a walking boot.

SDSU dominated the start of this contest. They were hitting shots on the offensive end and disrupting the Rebels’ flow on the other side of the floor. SDSU held UNLV to just 17% shooting eight minutes into the game while shooting 55% on their end of the court.

“I think we were locked in,” Jaedon LeDee said after asked about the hot start. “It was a 1:00 tip and we practice at 1:00 every day. I think it was just routine. The coaches did a good job of preparing us and we were ready to go.”

LeDee started with seven quick points and boarded six rebounds just eight minutes into his outing. Parrish started hot as well, making two of his first three shots and coming up with a huge steal.

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Just before the eight-minute mark in the first half, Parrish continued his hot outing with a triple in front of the UNLV bench. Right after it went in, he starred down the UNLV bench and coaching staff, showing how emotional this contest really was.

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT Sports

UNLV continued to struggle creating open looks on the offensive side of the court. The baskets that went in were good shots, however, their misses came at a high rate and they were forcing shots up all half.

A couple short scoring droughts allowed for the Rebels to bring the score to within seven points. Yet, SDSU seemed very much in control.

The Aztecs led by 10 (35-25) at the break.

The second half was a completely different story. UNLV started the half on a 13-9 run and brought the score down to as low as six points. The 16-point lead SDSU had in the first half had been wiped away as the Rebels started to hit their shots and play tougher defense.

In back-to-back possessions with LeDee sidelined with three fouls, the Rebels forced two shot clock violations to help cut into their lead. However, thanks to an Elijah Saunders triple, the Aztecs regained a 9-point lead with 11:24 remaining in the game.

The final minutes came down to the wire. A back-and-forth action kept the Rebels in the game.

UNLV needed a spark, and their head coach, Kevin Kruger, tried to bring it. During a TV timeout, Kruger said, “They (SDSU) are o much f****** tougher than us.”

That was certainly true, as the Aztecs happened to end the game, drawing a total of 22 fouls. SDSU made 23-30 free throws, which was a big factor in the win.

Reese Waters and Miles Byrd entered this game with injuries that could have kept them out. However, they both played crucial minutes off the bench in the win.

“(Waters) didn’t practice for two days and neither did Miles (Byrd),” Dutcher said. “They went a little bit earlier today so I had an indication but I didn’t want to start someone who missed practice. So now I will see how (Waters) is doing and see if I get him back in the starting lineup. I was happy to have them both. Our medical staff did a great job of getting (Byrd) ready and he was ready to go.”

Up next for San Diego State will be this upcoming Tuesday, January 9, on the road at San Jose State. SJSU is (7-8) on the season and (0-2) in the conference.

The Aztecs aim to stay undefeated in MW play.

News & Stats

  • After missing his last six games, Jalen Hill returned to the floor for the Rebels this afternoon. He then later left the game with a left leg injury.
  • LeDee ended with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals
  • Micah Parrish ended with 14 points and three steals
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