“MVP, MVP, MVP”
The chants echoed through the Thomas & Mack Center as seldom used senior D’Erryl Williams slowly walked off the court after diving for a loose ball in overtime. You may not be able to tell from his stat line, eight points, two rebounds, and three assists, but what he did for the Aztecs in the second half goes beyond the numbers.
When Williams came in the Aztecs were fighting to keep the momentum that had begun to build as they were knocking off the Rebels lead. Then the coaching staff drew up an isolation play for Williams at the elbow, he made a move and took it to the basket for an and-one. The foul was Jovan Mooring’s fifth foul and the Rebels, who were already reeling, were down their best scorer.
San Diego State shot a dreadful 14.8% in the first half and found themselves down 32-14. Yes you read that right, 14 points in an entire half. It seemed like UNLV was rolling towards the upset and a date with Boise State in the second round.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Aztecs made a push in the second half and outscored the Rebels 36-18 to force the game into overtime. The Aztecs hit big shot after big shot and chipped away at the UNLV lead. In the end the Rebels still had a chance to win the game. With 10 seconds left Christian Jones went to the line for a pair of free throws down one. Jones split the free throws and then Malik Pope came back and clanked a long two-point shot that would have given the Aztecs the victory in regulation.
In overtime the Aztecs took control of the game and used their suffocating defense to hold the Rebels scoreless until overtime had nine seconds left. San Diego State went 5-6 from the field and outscored UNLV 12-2 in the extra period. The 12 points in the five-minute overtime nearly matched the 14 points they scored in the 20-minute first half.
Pope led the Aztecs with 13 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. Trey Kell also scored in double figures, finishing with 13 points and adding seven rebounds. Senior center Valentine Izundu also was a major contributor by scoring eight points and tallying five blocks in the contest.
Mooring scored a game-high 18 points for UNLV before fouling out. Jones added 16 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
San Diego State will face Boise State on Thursday at 8:30 PM PT in the Mountain West Quarterfinals. UNLV’s season comes to an end at 11-21.