Analysis:

UNLV-San Diego State rivalry full of memorable showdowns

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Sam Morris

UNLV forward Mike Moser greets fans after their 65-63 defeat of San Diego State on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Exactly one month ago, San Diego State administrators made a decision to change nothing. And it changed everything.

More than a year after announcing a decision to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, San Diego State followed Boise State’s decision to remain in the league, giving the Mountain West 12 football programs and 11 programs for all other sports.

The Aztecs announced their decision to stay put at a press conference the afternoon of Jan. 16. A few hours later, UNLV (18-7 overall, 5-5 Mountain West) finished off its Thanks for Staying party with an 82-75 victory at Viejas Arena, the Rebels’ only road league win this year and just the third under coach Dave Rice.

At 6 p.m. Saturday in the Thomas & Mack Center, San Diego State (18-6, 6-4) comes into Las Vegas to return the favor on NBC Sports Network. This could have been the last game in the series, and thankfully for everyone involved, it's not.

Although this game isn’t as big as the preseason rankings set it up to be, the matchup almost always delivers. In the past 10 years, there have been numerous memorable showdowns, and here are the top five:

    • 5. No. 22 San Diego State 69, No. 12 UNLV 67

      Jan. 14, 2012, in San Diego

      Jamaal Franklin’s final shot wasn’t nearly as spectacular as plays like his self alley-oop, but it was more important given the situation.

      Dribbling the ball in the final 30 seconds of a tie game, Franklin took advantage of a miscommunication on UNLV’s defensive switch and finished with his right hand while falling away from the basket. It was the type of play Aztec fans have come to expect from the then-sophomore, and it gave SDSU bragging rights.

      Not only had the Aztecs taken down their higher-ranked rivals, but it was their sixth straight victory in the series. That wouldn’t last long, though.

      Game story: UNLV’s poor shooting and lapse on defense combine for loss at San Diego State

      Photo gallery

      This says it all: “It’s more than that last shot.” — Jamaal Franklin, crediting the Aztecs’ overall effort

    • 4. No. 14 UNLV 65, No. 13 San Diego State 63

      Feb. 11, 2012, in Las Vegas

      Not every game is won with a final shot. A steal does the trick, too, as Justin Hawkins proved in this game.

      On a night notable for the sold-out home crowd that included the newly formed Rebellion student section, Hawkins’ steal in the final seconds sealed a victory that snapped the Aztecs’ six-game winning streak in the series.

      It also put the Rebels in great position for the league race; however, road losses would undo that plan. On this night, though, everything seemed possible.

      Game story: UNLV can move forward without the burden of losing streak to San Diego State

      Photo gallery

      This says it all: “The bottom line is our guys certainly were tired of having to answer questions of ‘Why have you lost six in a row?’ ” — UNLV coach Dave Rice

    • 3. San Diego State 68, UNLV 66 OT

      Feb. 3, 2009, in Las Vegas

      Wink Adams’ 3-point attempt was off target, and the Aztecs moved into first place in the conference with a statement victory.

      The victory snapped a 27-game home-court conference winning streak for the Rebels, which included back-to-back Mountain West tournament victories. This was also the game that started to even up the series between the rivals, who are 17-17 against each other as members of the Mountain West.

      Game story: Aztecs snap UNLV win streak in overtime

      Photo gallery

      This says it all: “He was scoring all the buckets for us.” — Aztecs guard Richie Williams on teammate Kyle Spain, who scored eight of the team’s first nine points in overtime

    • 2. No. 7 San Diego State 74, UNLV 72

      March 11, 2011, in Las Vegas, Mountain West Tournament semifinals

      The season that really put San Diego State basketball on the map included three victories against UNLV, none more dramatic than the last.

      In the tournament semifinals and with their seed very much up in the air, the Rebels gave up a shot in the final seconds to the Aztecs’ D.J. Gay. UNLV would go on to lose in the Round of 64 as an 8 seed while SDSU beat Jimmer Fredette-led BYU (featuring assistant coach Dave Rice) in the finals to get a 2 seed that led to its only Sweet Sixteen in school history.

      UNLV lost both of the earlier meetings that year by six points. The past nine games between the teams have been decided by 10 points or fewer, dating to the end of the 2009 season.

      Game story: Selection Sunday awaits UNLV following 74-72 loss to San Diego State in MWC semis

      Photo gallery

      This says it all: "It's pretty frustrating, because we know we can compete with them." — UNLV’s Anthony Marshall

    • 1. UNLV 93, San Diego State 91 OT

      Feb. 12, 2005, in San Diego

      There’s really no other choice for the top spot. I mean, seriously, watch that replay.

      Down 10 with 18 seconds left, the Rebels suddenly came to life in what could only be described as a nightmare for the Aztecs. Then-freshman Curtis Terry capped the comeback with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime, where the Rebels would polish off the victory.

      It’s interesting to think about how that rally would be remembered had the Aztecs held on in overtime. Thankfully for UNLV, we’ll never know.

      Stories: New big shot on campus

      Rebels recall 2005 stunner in San Diego

      This says it all: “We didn’t have a chance. We shouldn’t have won that game. You’re not supposed to win those types of games.” — UNLV’s Curtis Terry

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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    1. Saw them all glad they're still with us. As Mills Lane used to say,"lets get it on!"

    2. One of the saddest moments in the MWC for me was the thought of losing SDSU. We have played them since the PCAA and have always enjoyed the competition. BB in particular has been extremely enjoyable. Have also had the privlige of seeing all the BB games either in person or on the tube. Certainly wish our current players could get the heart to play like the former Rebs did.

    3. That #1 game here with the OT win with 10 seconds to go, I asked Ken Pomeroy earlier this year to run the numbers because he was looking for the games with the least probable win and he gave the Rebels a 0.04% win percentage to win that after watching the replay. No one else submitted a game even remotely close to that percentage.