Chase Tapley almost pulled off a one-man performance that would have made Joe Ragland proud.
Ragland had scored 31 points this season to single-handedly lead Wichita State to a win over UNLV. Tapley didn't net quite that many Saturday, but the San Diego State junior guard did enough to scare the Rebels and most of a sellout crowd of 18,577 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Tapley scored 22 points, including 4-for-7 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. But when the 13th-ranked Aztecs needed Tapley to deliver at the end, they couldn't get him the ball. And, because of Justin Hawkins' defensive heroics in the final seconds, the No. 14 Rebels prevailed, 65-63.
"My shot was just falling," said Tapley, who scored 16 points in the second half -- almost matching his season average of 15.9. "Once I hit that first one, I started thinking I could make them all. But all scorers think that way."
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said that's the kind of performance he would expect from a veteran playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd.
"He's been a starter for us for three years now, and Chase is the kind of player who accepts the responsibility that comes with being in the program for that length of time," Fisher said. "He was terrific. He is a scorer, and he's got no fear. He can get into a rhythm, and he can make hard shots.
"When he makes one, then the next one, you better watch out because he's going to shoot it."
UNLV (22-4, 6-2 Mountain West) led 49-36 with 15:01 left and was on the verge of putting San Diego State (20-4, 6-2) away. Instead, Tapley started draining 3-pointers, and the Aztecs pulled ahead 63-62 with 1:30 left.
"Once he gets going," UNLV forward Mike Moser said, "he's tough to stop."
Tapley also made a great hustle play on Moser with 4:20 left by running him down on a breakaway for what appeared to be a easy basket and knocking the ball away for a turnover.
"You have to play both ends of the court," said Tapley, who was 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the second half. "It's not just about offense."
But ultimately, the Rebels didn't let Tapley beat them. They switched every screen down the stretch and denied him the ball. Hawkins, who came up with a clutch offensive rebound off a missed free throw by Rebels forward Chace Stanback with 11.8 seconds left, then stripped the ball from Aztecs point guard Xavier Thames with three seconds left to seal the outcome.
"Justin made a good play on the ball," Thames said. "He's got long arms, and I've played against him for a long time."
Thames said he takes responsibility for not finding Tapley down the stretch.
"That's on me," Thames said. "I need to get him the ball in that situation. That's the job of the point guard."
But Tapley said UNLV deserves credit for doing a better job defending him in the final 90 seconds.
"They made sure I didn't get my hands on the ball," he said. "X (Thames) tried to find me, but I really couldn't get open the way I was earlier in the half."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.