Sdsu Unable to Close Out in ‘loss’ Vegas

by Staff

LAS VEGAS — Many people didn’t expect San Diego State to win thisgame, yet there it was, up 13 at the half, dominating a visiblyfatigued UNLV team. Add the fact that Runnin’ Rebels forward DalronJohnson — one of the quickest, most explosive players in theconference — was out with an ankle injury, the contest soon becameone SDSU should have won.

Yet the team was unable to hold that lead and fell, 82-72, infront of 11,703 at the Thomas and Mack Center.

“It’s like a recurring theme,” said Aztecs forward Randy Holcomb.”We can never close. We never close in practice and it carries overto the games.”

One of the big turning points in the game was when SDSU centerMarcelo Correa fouled out with nine minutes remaining. That forcedthe smaller Myron Epps and Chris Walton to try to defend 250-poundcenter Kaspars Kambala, who scored 18 of his 22 points afterintermission.

His presence in turn allowed UNLV guard Jermaine Lewis to operate.The junior, who scored just two points in the first 20 minutes,picked up 17 in the second stanza.

“When Marcelo fouled out, we didn’t have that big body to throw inat them,” said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher. “Kambala is a loadinside. If he gets the ball in there, he is tough to stop. They wereable to get him the ball and we had a difficult time stopping it.”

In the first half, SDSU went on a 13-2 run to grab a 15-4 lead.Even more impressive about the run was that Holcomb, the Aztecs’leading scorer, went down with a bruised lower back justtwo-and-a-half minutes into the game. Junior guard Al Faux picked upthe slack, scoring 19, despite totaling only 12 points over the lastthree contests.

“I just wanted to come in and give the team a boost,” Faux said.”Someone needed to step up. I just wanted to be a part of it. Iwanted to make something happen because I hadn’t played well lately.”

In the first half, every run UNLV made was matched by the Aztecs.

Late in that stanza SDSU saw its lead drop to five before gettingeight points of its own to grab a 37-24 half-time advantage. In thesecond half, Lewis hit a 3-pointer to pull the team within four,41-37. Then, after a scuffle involving several players (resulting intwo technical fouls assessed to each team), the Aztecs were able tomake it a nine-point advantage.

Yet the Runnin’ Rebels kept hanging in and eventually grabbed thelead with just under four minutes left.

Said Fisher: “We knew they were going to make a run — they madeseveral — and we warded off a bunch of them, but not enough ofthem.”

That lead would have resulted in a victory, had UNLV not made acrucial turnover.

With SDSU trailing 70-65, Faux drove the lane and made a lay-up topull the team within three. Then, on the in-bounds play, Runnin’Rebels forward Chris Richardson tried to pass deep to SylvesterDotson, but was long, giving the Aztecs life.

On the ensuing possession, Faux promptly sunk a 3-pointer to tiethe game with 12 seconds remaining.

In the overtime period SDSU traded baskets with UNLV, but saw themgo on a 10-0 run to close out the game.

“We had opportunities and we didn’t finalize enough of them,”Fisher said. “We had the ball right in the paint numerous times, withwhat I thought were point-blank, guaranteed baskets or fouls, andcame away with nothing. You have to be able to sink enough of them tokeep the heat on.”

Said Faux: “I thought we were going to win the game. We had themdown, but they fought back.

“I guess they just wanted it more than us.”