Published January 17, 2013
SAN DIEGO – Hours before tipoff Wednesday night between UNLV and No. 15 San Diego State, the Aztecs announced they were staying in the Mountain West Conference.
That was great news for coach Steve Fisher, even if his Aztecs were upset 82-75 by the Runnin' Rebels.
Anthony Marshall scored a season-high 20 points, and Justin Hawkins and Khem Birch scored off rebounds on consecutive possessions over the final 1:18 to help UNLV win.
Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 14 points and Birch had 12 for the Runnin' Rebels (15-3, 2-1 Mountain West Conference), who fell out of the AP Top 25 on Monday after losing at New Mexico and going to overtime against Air Force before winning.
The Runnin' Rebels outrebounded the Aztecs 43-31.
The Aztecs' loss left No. 19 New Mexico as the only team with a perfect league record at 3-0. The Lobos beat Boise State 79-74 in overtime.
Jamaal Franklin had a game-high 27 points while freshman Winston Shepard had 18 and Chase Tapley 16 for the Aztecs (14-3, 2-1).
San Diego State hadn't lost at home since a 77-67 defeat to New Mexico on Feb. 15.
The Aztecs cancelled their move to the Big East in football and Big West in basketball, deciding to stay in the MWC in all sports.
"It's nice to know for all of us that now it appears that we've got some stability of where we will be next year," Fisher said. "I'm the only guy that's been here since the beginning of the Mountain West. Coaches have come and gone and programs have come and gone. I'm the lone dog that has been here for 14 years as a coach.
"I value the quality of the league," he said. "It's getting great recognition. Now we know this is where we are going to continue to be and we'll make it work. This is a great league and we're proud to be a part of it."
Marshall had five straight points for UNLV, including his second coast-to-coast layup and a drive up the key for a 73-70 lead with 4:05 left before Franklin made a layup and was fouled by Marshall — his fourth — and converted the three-point play to tie it.
UNLV went back ahead 76-73 when Dejean-Jones made one of two free throws and Birch had a putback.
On SDSU's next possession, Franklin and Tapley both missed 3-point shots and the Aztecs missed two close-range shots.
UNLV rebounded, called a timeout and Dejean-Jones missed a long 3-pointer. However, Hawkins grabbed the rebound and put it back for a 78-73 lead with 1:18 to go.
Shepard made a bank shot with 1:05 left. Marshall missed for UNLV but Birch grabbed the rebound and scored to make it 80-75.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV's leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, was held to nine points.
"I'm proud of our fight and effort, especially in the second half, and we need now to clean up what we didn't do well, but leave it on the doorstep," Fisher said. "I told our players, one of the fibers of this program has been the ability to be resilient and not lose back-to-back games. Before I could say anything, Jamaal Franklin made the comment, 'Nobody's going to go undefeated in this league.' "
UNLV led 48-42 at halftime and quickly extended the lead to 10 points in the opening 3:25 of the second half. Bennett made a reverse layup and a fallaway jumper, and Marshall had a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court for a layup for a 56-46 lead.
UNLV's lead was 60-51 when the Aztecs went on a 12-0 run. Franklin made two free throws, Skylar Spencer had a tip-in, Shepard made an inside shot, JJ O'Brien made a layup on a nice pass from Shepard out near the 3-point arc, Tapley had a layup and Shepard made a bank shot for a 63-60 lead with 9:50 to go.
The Runnin' Rebels regained the lead at 64-63 with consecutive field goals by Marshall, a bank shot and a basket off a rebound.
Bennett had two slam dunks early to help the Runnin' Rebels take a 16-8 lead. He also was whistled for a technical foul after his second dunk, apparently for saying something.
San Diego State made 15 of 19 free throws in the half but shot only 40 percent from the field. UNLV shot 57.6 percent.