SAN DIEGO – Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, it was a big deal when UNLV’s basketball team visited Viejas Arena.
But after San Diego State handed the Runnin’ Rebels their seventh straight loss Sunday afternoon, 77-64, sending UNLV back into a tie for last place in the Mountain West Conference with Air Force, several Aztecs rubbed a little salt into the many wounds for Marvin Menzies’ squad.
When asked if he considered the Runnin’ Rebels a rival team, point guard Jeremy Hemsley didn’t mince words.
“No,” Hemsley said. “I feel like they try to make it more than what it is. … It’s just another game in our eyes at least.”
“It’s just not the same vibe that it used to be,” added senior forward Matt Shrigley.
You can argue the Aztecs (16-10, 8-6 Mountain West) were just being truthful. After all, Sunday’s victory was the 10th straight for San Diego State and 19th in the last 23 meetings.
Yep, hard to call that much of a rivalry.
Hemsley and Shrigley each scored 16 points and junior forward Malik Pope finished with 17 points and nine rebounds to pace San Diego State, which jumped out to a 41-26 halftime lead and really was never threatened after that.
UNLV got as close as 66-60 on a 3-pointer by guard Jovan Mooring with 4:45 to go but the Aztecs put the pedal back to metal and closed the game out with a 11-4 run as the Rebels wasted several possessions with ill-advised shots and turnovers.
“It sounds like a broken record but we came ready to play,” Menzies said. “We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with missing easy buckets and getting right there and getting close. But this is a better team than us, and they beat us twice – handedly, I think, both times.”
The loss dropped UNLV to 10-17 overall, a school single-season record for losses, and 3-11 in Mountain West play. Those are the same exact records as Air Force which hosts the Rebels on Wednesday night at Clune Arena in a game that very well could determine last place in the conference.
Menzies said he still believes his team has a chance to put together a run before the season ends.
“They keep showing me flashes where I say, ‘Hey man I still believe.’ I might be crazy but like I said, I still think that if they can bring it for 40 minutes collectively, then we can play with anybody. Until we do it, though, it’s just a dream right now.”
Mooring led the Rebels with 26 points on 7-of-17 shooting and also had five rebounds and five assists while senior guard Uche Ofoegbu added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
UNLV played without guard Jalen Poyser, who ranks third on the team in scoring (11.4). Menzies said Poyser was suspended for a violation of team rules. Freshman forward Troy Baxter remains sidelined with a foot injury.
MyLVsports.com staff report
Click on graphics below for final stats and Mountain West standings