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UNLV no match for San Diego State in Mountain West clash

Updated January 24, 2022 - 9:45 pm

With 50 seconds left in the first half, San Diego State’s Lamont Butler broke out the windmill.

Attempting to inbound the ball from the Aztecs’ baseline, UNLV’s pass was knocked away by San Diego State junior Keshad Johnson and went straight to Butler. With no one in front of him, the Aztecs’ guard loaded up and threw down a vicious windmill dunk to make the score 43-23 San Diego State heading into halftime.

The transition slam summed up the game for UNLV Monday night in San Diego. Playing its fourth game in eight days, against a fresh San Diego team, the Rebels slumped to an 80-55 loss at Viejas Arena, despite the return of junior forward Donovan Williams, who missed Saturday’s game due to injury.

“Everybody deals with injuries and with COVID, with COVID pauses and the restructuring of the schedule,” coach Kevin Kruger told reporters. “To play four games in (eight) days is tough, but that doesn’t change the fact that the guys want to play games.”

Butler’s windmill dunk capped a three-minute, 11-5 San Diego State run to close the first half, a stretch which ended UNLV’s final chance at keeping the game close. It was San Diego State’s third highlight run-out slam.

Butler previously made a soaring, one-handed jam over two UNLV defenders earlier in the half, before Johnson added one to his highlight reel, a monstrous two-handed dunk.

San Diego State punished UNLV in transition all night. The Aztecs scored 23 points on the fast break, 10 more than the Rebels (11-9, 3-4 Mountain West), who didn’t help themselves by turning the ball over 15 times.

The Rebels only made 19 field goals in the entire game. Butler’s dunk was the Aztecs’ 18th made shot from the field in the first half.

San Diego State senior Matt Bradley was responsible for most of those makes. The former Cal standout was at his best, scoring 27 on 10-of-11 shooting. It didn’t matter who the Rebels put on him, as Bradley rumbled to the hoop, used his quick pivot move to create space for a midrange jumper or rained in threes.

While Bradley cooked the Rebels on offense, senior center Nathan Mensah prevented UNLV from getting anything near the rim. The former Findlay Prep star anchored the defense for the Aztecs (11-4, 3-1), snuffing Rebel drives with ease. He finished with three blocks.

With Mensah lurking at the rim, the Rebels took 25 threes. They made just seven. Hamilton led the Rebels with 23 points, including a 4-of-9 night from three-point range. Senior Jordan McCabe added 10 points and shot 50 percent from the floor. Williams played 14 minutes in his return, scoring two points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Now, the Rebels finally get to take a break.

“We’ve got a couple days here where we can get back to what we were doing, which gave us a chance in pretty much every game we’ve played,” Kruger said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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