Aztecs match up against mysterious UNLV team while looking to make history


by Ryan Posner, Sports Editor

No team in the Mountain West has been more of an enigma this season than UNLV.

The Runnin’ Rebels opened their season with impressive wins over University of Oregon and University of Indiana, both ranked inside the top 15 of the AP Top 25 poll at the time.

Meanwhile, San Diego State men’s basketball was losing in an uncharacteristic fashion in non conference play, and it looked like the MW had a surprise front-runner going into league play.

Then gravity set in for the bunch out in Las Vegas.

The Rebels dropped their first three MW games to teams — to put it nicely — that were not expected to contend for the conference title (Fresno State, Colorado State  and University of Wyoming).

Then the roof completely caved in when the school announced the firing of head coach Dave Rice, who was in his fifth season at the position.

That got a sharp response from SDSU head coach Steve Fisher.

“I’ve been there before, I got fired. It has a ripple effect in so many ways in so many layers. He’s got relatively young children. It’s really tough on families. I know that, I’ve lived it,” Fisher said on Jan. 11. “Unfortunately in the college coaching profession, it’s drawing closer to the NFL, the NBA and the professional sports. It’s just ‘get rid of him now’ where most of the time people thought you may not get an extension, but you never worried about getting fired at midseason.”

True to script, the Rebels once again look like a team with potential under interim head coach Todd Simon.

On Tuesday they took down second-place Boise State 77-67 at in Las Vegas, giving them a 3-1 record under the new head coach.

Now the Rebels will get the main course after their Tuesday appetizer when they welcome first-place SDSU to the Thomas &  Mack Center on Saturday.

What to watch for

  • The Aztecs have a chance to make some history with a win against UNLV. For starters, a win would give them an 11-game win streak in league play, which would set a program record. A win would also give them their eighth-straight MW win on the road, which would set a conference record. Lastly, the Aztecs would move to 9-0 with a win, placing them one win away from tying their best conference start to a season (2013-14).
  • Shooting woes are nothing new for SDSU and that was on display in Tuesday’s win over University of Nevada. The Aztecs shot 28.8 percent from the field, which was their second-lowest percentage of the season. Their lowest came in their loss to Little Rock (28.3 percent). UNLV averages more than 10 more points per game than the Aztecs, so players like sophomore guard Trey Kell and freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley are going to have to start hot and end hot when it comes to shooting.
  • An interesting matchup to watch will be UNLV freshman forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. going against the elder statesman, senior center Skylar Spencer. Zimmerman, who stands at 7 feet,  was one of the most highly touted freshman post players coming into this season, and he’s tied for second on his team with 10.5 points per game. However, a matchup against the MW’s all-time leader in blocks could prove troubling for the youngster.

How to watch

Tip-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m. and can be seen on CBS Sports Network or heard on The Mighty 1090 AM.

Follow @DAztecSports and @TheDailyAztec for live coverage and a postgame recap.