Aztec men’s basketball sets Mountain West record in 67-52 win over UNLV

by Ryan Posner, Sports Editor

Record-breaking, historical, legendary.

These are three words few thought would be associated with San Diego State men’s basketball after it lost six games in its nonconference schedule this season.

But after defeating UNLV 67-52 Saturday night in Las Vegas, the Aztecs (16-6, 9-0) can apply those words to their season, at least for the time being.

The Aztecs’ victory was their eighth straight Mountain West win on the road, which is now a conference record.

SDSU has now also won 11 straight league games dating back to last season, which is now a program record. It is within one win of the best start to league play in school history, when the 2013-14 team started out MW play 10-0.

With University of New Mexico’s takedown of Boise State on Saturday, the Aztecs now hold a two-game lead for first place in the MW.

UNLV had won three of its last four games, including a win against Boise State on Wednesday, but it was outmatched on its home floor and led for just three minutes in the contest.

The difference was on the glass.

SDSU out-rebounded the Runnin’ Rebels 44-27 (32-17 on the defensive glass).

Senior center Sklyar Spencer had the tough assignment of going against one of the best young post players in the country, 7-foot freshman center Stephen Zimmerman Jr. Spencer let his experience take over.

Spencer’s stat line isn’t going to show up on the bottom ticker on ESPN with just six points, but his eight rebounds (team-high) and three blocks were key in the team’s effort in the trenches.

More importantly, he was able to stay out of foul trouble when his counterpart Angelo Chol picked up his fourth foul with 9:44 left in the contest.

Sophomore guard Trey Kell, who is averaging over 17 points through his last four games, once again led the team with 14 points and also helped in the team’s domination of the glass with seven rebounds.

Kell grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in the team’s win over University of Nevada on Tuesday.

Freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley was right behind him with 13 points and senior forward Winston Shepard added 11 points and eight rebounds in his return to Las Vegas (he played his high school ball at nearby Findlay Prep).

The Aztecs improved mightily from their poor shooting night in Reno, Nevada, and shot 44.9 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range.

UNLV has been one of the Aztecs’ most bitter rivals in the Steve Fisher era, but SDSU has now won seven straight games in the rivalry.

That’s also now a school record. It’s just been that kind of MW season for the Aztecs.

Even in the darkest moments, Shepard stayed consistent with his belief that this team was going to be “special.”

After losses against University of San Diego and Grand Canyon University, it was easy to scoff at a sentiment like that.

Maybe there was a little method to his madness.

The Aztecs will look to tie their school record for best start in league play when they welcome Colorado State to Viejas Arena at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.