Rebels fall to Aztecs for seventh consecutive time, lose Carter to knee injury
February 16, 2013. That’s the last time that UNLV has beaten San Diego State and while UNLV looked to change that after a much needed statement win against Boise State on Wednesday, the Aztecs had other plans to keep their undefeated conference season intact.
What started out to be a fast-pace battle between the two teams soon turned ugly when junior forward Ben Carter took a bad fall on a non-contact play midway through the first half and left the game with a left knee sprain. There was no official update on Carter’s status post game.
“It was a pivotal moment in the game because Ben’s one of the heartbeats of this team,” interim head coach Todd Simon said. “Games like this are made for him, they’re letting him play and it’s gritty.”
Size, talent and discipline all played a key role in San Diego State’s seventh consecutive win against UNLV, as the Rebels once again fell short to the Aztecs, 67-52 at the Thomas & Mack on Saturday.
“San Diego State has been a championship-caliber team in our league for a number of years,” Simon said. “They’re a phenomenal defensive team, no question. We passed up a number of good first looks, and we emphasized all week that against this team, you have to take the first good look. We looked almost hesitant at times.”
UNLV was able to muster up enough offensive energy in the first half to keep it within three points by the half before going on a downward swirl in the second half.
The first half of play was a back-and-forth battle between UNLV and San Diego State but the Aztecs held an 25-15 advantage on the glass as well as dominating in the paint. San Diego State’s veteran frontcourt was too for freshman forward Stephan Zimmerman Jr., who posted another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, to handle alone after Carter went down.
“They’re a crazy aggressive team, one of the many great attributes they have,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, having now played them, we know what to expect. This is a grown-up game, and they’re grown men.”
Rebels came out of the half with some energy cutting the Aztecs lead. Ike Nwamu’s dunk with 11:56 to play got the Rebels within one point but San Diego State used an 13-4 run to put the Aztecs up 10 and the Rebels were never able to ignite a comeback.
“We strung together a couple of baskets and they strung together some of misses and we created a little separation,” San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said. “We got that eight-point lead and didn’t let them jump it back to two. I think that was important. We went four or five minutes holding them off. We played hard.”
Fisher was right. UNLV went on multiple scoring droughts in the second half along with being out rebounded by a mismatched frontcourt 44-27 and 16-4 second chance points didn’t help the Rebels lackluster offense down the stretch.
UNLV seemed completely outcoached in the second half, no offensive sets and half-court play was stagnant. Guard play was again obsolete. Seniors Jerome Seagears and Ike Nwamu combined for 11 points while Jordan Cornish and Jalen Poyser were nonexistent on the floor with zero points on 11 minutes of play.
Being one of the elite defensive teams in the nation proved true as the Aztecs kept the Rebels to 36.7 percent shooting from the field. While the open looks were there for UNLV, the shots just weren’t falling and the Aztecs did a good job protecting the perimeter forcing the Rebels to shoot just 5-of-23 from beyond the arc (21.7 percent).
“We learned where the bar is at,” Simon said. “We have to digest this loss. We have to go back to work tomorrow we have to turn the page quickly and prepare for New Mexico.”
After New Mexico handed Boise State their second straight loss, the Lobos move into sole possession of second place in the MWC behind San Diego State.
UNLV(13-9.4-5) falls under .500 once again and will start their two-game road trip on Tuesday at 5pm in Albuquerque to take on Craig Neal and Co.
“We had a couple ones that got away from us earlier in the season and that hurts,” Zimmerman said. “Now, it’s time to make up for it.”
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