Saturday, February 11, 2012

UNLV's defense won this game, but we need a grudge match

If there is one thing that you are going to take out of No. 14 UNLV's 65-63 win over No. 13 San Diego State on Saturday afternoon, its that we need to see this again.

The Runnin' Rebels got revenge on the Aztecs for a loss they were handed in their first meeting when Jamaal Franklin hit a runner off the glass with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock for a 69-67 win. And in that meeting, the finish barely did the actual game justice.

The exact same thing can be said about Saturday's action. UNLV jumped out to a 13 point lead midway through the second half and still led 58-46 with 12 minutes left in the game when Mike Moser knocked down a jumper from the wing. From that point on, however, UNLV's offensive execution went in the toilet. They made just 3-14 shots from the floor over the last 12 minutes, hitting just one of their five free throws and turning the ball over five times.

As a result, the Aztecs were able to battle all the way back. Garrett Green cut the lead to three with a dunk at the five minute mark before Chase Tapley capped a 17-4 run -- which included a number of incredible and athletic plays by both teams -- with a three to take the lead, 63-62, at the 1:40 mark.

But UNLV clamped down defensively. Not only was the three the last point that the Aztecs scored, it was also the last shot they were able to get off. SDSU turned the ball over three times, including a strip by Moser that led to a layup at the other end by Marshall and another strip by Stanback that went out of bounds off of the Rebels.

UNLV won this game with their defense.

They forced 17 turnovers (13 off of steals) and blocked nine shots, led by six steals and four blocks from Mike Moser, but more importantly made the big plays and got the crucial stops down the stretch.

But this wasn't like the Big Ten. Defense may have dominated the end of this game, but it certainly wasn't boring. It was up and down with the sloppiness of U-11 AAU game and the intensity of Frank Martin staring down the guy trying to date his daughter.

It was perfect. Again.

Which is why we all need to hope that these two end up playing again in the MWC Tournament, preferably in the title game. That's a very real possibility. This win for UNLV means that we will have a three-team tie, along with New Mexico, at the top of the league. So long as New Mexico doesn't win the regular season and neither UNLV nor SDSU drops into fourth place, than the table will be set.

Because we need a grudge match.

The players, the coaches and us, the fans.

We need that game to happen.

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