San Diego St.-UNLV Preview
San Diego State posted its sixth consecutive win over UNLV in
thrilling fashion when the teams met last month.
While the Aztecs have controlled this series of late, they know
they’ll get all they can handle from a Runnin’ Rebels team eagerly
awaiting their arrival.
Seeking a fourth straight win at the Thomas & Mack Center,
No. 13 San Diego State looks to hand 14th-ranked UNLV its first
home loss when the teams meet Saturday with first place in the
Mountain West Conference on the line.
The Aztecs (20-3, 6-1) continued their recent domination of the
Runnin’ Rebels (21-4, 5-2) with a conference-opening 69-67 win Jan.
14. Leading scorer Jamaal Franklin played the role of hero, making
the game-winning layup with three-tenths of a second remaining.
Tightly-contested games between these teams are nothing new,
with the last four matchups decided by a combined 16 points.
“We’ve played Vegas close game after close game after close
game,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “Every game, home
or away, has been very aggressive by both teams … Obviously, the
magnitude of this game right now for both teams is big. It’s high
San Diego State is first in the conference, one game ahead of
both UNLV and New Mexico. While the Aztecs currently control their
own destiny, they know facing both to kick off the second half of
league play could quickly change things. San Diego State hosts the
Lobos on Wednesday.
“Second half begins (Saturday) and we know the challenges that
we face. Everybody asked before we started, `What’s it going to be
like playing Vegas and New Mexico right out of the gate?’ And
that’s what we have this time,” Fisher said.
“It’s a big game, a big game for both teams. I know we’ll be
ready and I’m sure that they’ll be ready also … This is what
everybody wants to play in though, these kinds of games and this
kind of environment. This is what we’re going to have on Saturday.
We look forward to it and we are ready to go.”
While the Thomas & Mack Center hasn’t generally proven kind
to visiting teams, the Aztecs have surprisingly thrived there –
going 5-1 over their last six visits. Another victory, however,
could be hard to come by given the Runnin’ Rebels’ recent efforts
UNLV has gone 13-0 on its own court while outscoring opponents
by an average of 23.4 points. The Runnin’ Rebels, who rank ninth in
the country with 80.0 points per game, are averaging an even more
impressive 86.8 on 51.6 percent shooting at home.
UNLV doesn’t carry much momentum into this weekend’s showdown
after its five-game winning streak came to an end with last
Saturday’s 68-66 loss at Wyoming. The Runnin’ Rebels had a couple
of chances to tie the game in the waning seconds but couldn’t come
“We’re right in the middle of a conference race. We let one get
away (last Saturday), but again, we’re still one game out of first
place,” coach Dave Rice told the team’s official site. “We’ve got
the first place team coming to the Thomas & Mack Center on
(Saturday), so great opportunity for us ahead.”
The Aztecs are coming off an 83-73 win over TCU last Saturday
and, like UNLV, figure to be well rested.
“I think it’s good for us,” Fisher said of having the week off.
“I think we need to take a deep breath … With the stretch we had,
and what we’ve been doing, the travel and everything, it affected
us physically a little bit. … It’s nice to have a slight lead
going into the second lap. We know it will be hard.”
Franklin, averaging 16.0 points, scored 24 to go along with a
career best-tying 11 rebounds versus the Horned Frogs.