San Diego State shuts down UNLV, advances to MWC Championship

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After getting out to a comfortable lead in the second half, the Aztecs continued to suffocate the Runnin' Rebels defensively and held on to win 59-51. Advancing to the Mountain West Championship.

UNLV scored the first 7 points to start the game, but after SDSU got going offensively and continued to dominate on defense as they've done all season, there didn't appear to be much hope for the Runnin' Rebels.

Dwayne Polee lead the way for the Aztecs with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Going 4 of 10 from the field and 3 of 5 from beyond the perimeter, he along with Xavier Thames (17 points, 6 assists) provided solid production for SDSU and he also knocked down a couple key free throws down the stretch to prevent a last minute UNLV run from escalating into anything.

San Diego State only lead by 4 going into the second half. But after 19-9 run out of the break, the Aztecs found themselves ahead the 48-33 with a little over 8 minutes remaining. Turnovers were costly for the Rebels in the second half as SDSU turned 13 UNLV turnovers into 12 points on the other end.

The Runnin' Rebels simply appeared to be outmatched in almost every facet of the game. You could tell the frustration was setting in midway through the second half after nearly a 7 minute scoring drought, UNLV couldn't get anything going offensively against a stingy San Diego State defense.

Deville Smith lead the Rebels in scoring with 17 points. Although he made some big plays for UNLV late in the second half, his team-leading 5 turnovers were inexcusable. Another issue Smith has dealt with this season has been his failure to distribute the ball. He only managed 2 assists on the night.

SDSU was clearly the better team Friday night as they've proven to be all season. This loss certainly puts an end to the Runnin' Rebels hopes of making a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. As disappointing as this season has been for the Runnin' Rebels, a brighter future awaits them.

The lack of chemistry on this team was evident this entire season. Although there might be a bit of uncertainty with who will remain with the program, playing time for a guy like Christain Wood was valuable and will certainly help with his development going into next season.

As for San Diego State, there are much bigger goals that have yet to be accomplished. They will most likely receive a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the MW Championship outcome and are expected to make a deep run.

SDSU clearly has the talent and defensive prowess to compete with any team in the nation. And with Mountain West coach of the year Steve Fisher at the helm, this team has all the leadership qualities needed to make a run at the National Championship.

San Diego State will face New Mexico Saturday at 3:00 PM PT. on CBS Sports Network.

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