SAN DIEGO — UNLV and San Diego State had played 68 times — dating back more than half a century — before taking the floor Saturday at Viejas Arena.
Never before was there a game like this one in the series — with UNLV getting routed 94-56 in the Mountain West game.
It was the most lopsided victory by either team in the series. That’s surprising not just because of UNLV’s 10-point home win over the Aztecs three weeks ago but because the Rebels had won three straight games and five of six.
“Most of it is on us,” said UNLV senior guard Jovan Mooring, who led the Rebels with 16 points. “We came out flat. You come out flat against a good team like that you’re going to have this type of game.
“There was one point where we thought we could get a little momentum, then they hit three or four 3s in a row, and it was like, ‘Man.’
“The basket was huge for them tonight. They wouldn’t miss.”
The Aztecs (15-10, 7-7 MW) led 10-2 about four minutes into the game. They took a 48-28 halftime lead and led by more than 30 points most of the second half. They shot 50.7 percent overall and made 11 of 26 3-pointers.
The loss denied UNLV (19-8, 8-6 MW) a 20th win for the first time in four seasons.
“They threw the first punch, and we didn’t respond to it,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “It was a horrible effort by us and a fantastic effort by then. It doesn’t make for a good combination.”
San Diego State’s 94 points were the most allowed this season by the Rebels, whose total represented a season low and some 30 points below their season average.
UNLV’s 14 first-half turnovers were two more than they had in the entire game the last time the teams met. The Rebels were on pace for a season high in turnovers before limiting themselves to five in the second half.
“You have to give San Diego State a lot of credit,” Menzies said. “They lost to us at home, we’re playing well and they came out like all those things meant something to them.
“To have that team have all their guys back, a full complement, you saw the No. 2 pick in the conference by the preseason polls. I think you saw them today. We all saw them.”
Perhaps the biggest difference between this game and the previous meeting was how the Aztecs approached UNLV freshman center Brandon McCoy, who scored 21 points when the teams met in Las Vegas. McCoy struggled in his return to the city where he played high school basketball, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
McCoy didn’t score for almost 12 minutes in the first half. He needed two free throws with seven minutes to play to avoid his season low in scoring.
San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher used a ball-side guard effectively to double-team McCoy.
“I’m sure they prepared two for three days for the post double, big-to-big,” Dutcher said. “Whatever they practiced for two days, they didn’t see. It took them (some time) to get a feel for what we were doing.”
The result obviously embarrassed McCoy, but he still enjoyed the trip.
“It was really fun being in this environment,” he said. “I always dreamed of playing in the Aztec arena. It was a great atmosphere. … They just had a really good game plan and stopped us from doing what we wanted to do.”
Prep forward commits to UNLV
Joel Ntambwe, a 6-foot 8-inch forward from Aspire Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, committed to UNLV on Saturday. The senior chose UNLV over UCLA, Tennessee and Wichita State.
“I really built a strong relationship with head coach (Marvin) Menzies,” said Ntambwe, who is averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds. “That’s the thing that made me really want to go to that school.
“It wasn’t really a tough decision. On my visit, I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff.”
Ntambwe is rated a three-star recruit by ESPN and Rivals.
Mark Anderson Review-Journal