The San Jose State Spartans -- the UNLV Rebels at Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.
The Spartans were off to a great start, scoring seven straight points during the opening minutes of the game. Sophomore guard Jaycee Hillsman contributed with a three-pointer along with a dunk to get his team on the board. SJSU led the Rebels 9-7 at 14:59 of the first half.
However, turnovers along with defensive lapses costed the Spartans, who committed nine first half turnovers.
The Rebels generated offensive rebounds to push ahead, grabbing their first lead of the game 17-16 at 11:22. Around the same time, UNLV went on a 14-0 run.
Spartans head coach Dave Wojcik made a substitution, putting in sophomore forward Cody Schwartz.
The Spartans trailed the Rebels 36-31 at the half.
Freshman guard Terrell Brown finished in traffic to make it a two-point game for the Spartans at 17:23 of the second half. Less than three minutes later, the game was tied 46-46. SJSU went on to grab a 50-46 lead over the Rebels, thanks to a 7-0 run along with some steals by senior guard Isaac Thornton.
Schwartz struggled to score in the past three games, but made a shot to give the Spartans a six point lead midway through the second half.
The Rebels made it a three-point game with less than six minutes remaining. They tied the score 74-74 in the final minute of the game.
Brown scored the game-winning basket to lift the Spartans (13-10, 6-6 Mountain West) to a 76-74 win over the Rebels (10-16, 3-10 MW) for their fourth straight win.
SJSU rode its first three-game conference winning streak as members of the MW and the first against conference foes since 2010.
The Spartans beat the Rebels 76-72 in San Jose on Jan. 28. Brandon Clarke came into Saturday's game as the MW’s leading scorer (22.7 ppg) and shot blocker (2.7 bpg) during league play. Only one of SJSU’s five program wins have come in Las Vegas — an 80-74 win on Mar. 3, 1994.
It is SJSU’s first three-game winning streak in conference play since taking down Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and Hawai'i in the same week from Jan. 21-28, 2011. The Spartans have been shooting 47.8 percent from the field while holding the three opponents to a combined 38.3 percent. After being out-rebounded by an average of nearly eight per game in conference play, the Spartans have been close to even with the opponents during the streak at -1.0.
SDSU, New Mexico and UNLV are the three teams with the most MW championship titles in the league with 11 combined. It was the first time since 1996 that SJSU beat the Rebels, first time ever beating the Lobos and first time since 1999 defeating the Aztecs. The Spartans were 1-35 during the first two years of league play as MW members and after winning four conference games last year, this streak has brought them above that with five wins here in early February.
Upon joining the league, the Spartans' RPI was in the 330's, and at the end of last year with a 9-21 record, it was 299. SJSU's RPI is 143 through games as of Feb. 8, 2017.
Given the history of success which the Spartans’ last three opponents have enjoyed in the last decade, it’s safe to say this is the best three-game winning streak SJSU has ever had.
The Spartans head to the Save Mart Center to take on the Fresno State Bulldogs next Wednesday at 7:00 pm PST. You can tune into the game on Mountain West Network and KLIV 1590 AM.