LAS VEGAS (AP) - D.J. Gay and his San Diego State teammates were ready for the late scare UNLV gave them.
``I definitely did my homework,' Gay said. ``We just had to play defense down to the wire. It wasn't offense, it was stopping them.
``We're going to crowd you outside. We're going to make you shoot over our heads.'
Gay scored 20 points and Kawhi Leonard had 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead the sixth-ranked Aztecs to a 63-57 victory Saturday.
San Diego State (25-1, 10-1 Mountain West Conference) trailed for only the second time in the game when Tre'Von Willis drove in for a layup with 3:07 left to give the Rebels (18-7, 6-5) a 55-54 lead. But the Aztecs made nine of 10 free throw attempts in the final 2:12 to seal their fifth consecutive win.
``Everyone who goes to the free throw line has a feeling of comfort,' Gay said. ``To play a game down to the wire like this is very important. It's something we're expecting down the road.'
UNLV went 1 for 15 from 3-point range and missed all 10 tries after halftime, including an 0-for-6 mark after Willis gave the Rebels their lone lead of the second half.
Willis led UNLV with 13 points. Oscar Bellfield scored 12 and Brice Massamba had 11 points (on 5-for-5 shooting) and six rebounds.
James Rahon added 12 points for the Aztecs.
``We got disjointed when we had the foul problems,' San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. ``We were on our backs and we found a way to steady the ship.
``We have a lot of guys who are capable of stepping up and making plays when we need them. We made free throws, we got stops when we had to, we stepped up and made enough important plays to win.'
Willis' go-ahead basket capped a 16-5 UNLV run that included eight points by Willis and four consecutive points from Massamba.
Brian Carlwell's two free throws with 1:35 left gave the Aztecs a 57-55 lead. Bellfield tied it when he made two free throws with 1:22 to go, but the Rebels never scored again.
``San Diego did what they needed to do down the stretch to get the win,' UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. ``They're very good defending the goal when you get there.'
Gay converted two foul shots for a 59-57 edge with 1:03 to play. Malcolm Thomas, fouled after grabbing a defensive rebound, made two free throws that upped the lead to 61-57 with 51 seconds left. Rahon made two more free throws with a second left.
``We just tried to get the ball to the basket,' Leonard said. ``We were getting fouled and we made our free throws to keep the lead and win the game.'
Earlier, when UNLV had narrowed the Aztecs' lead to five and then six points in the second half, Gay answered with long jumpers.
And when the Rebels trimmed the SDSU advantage to 43-37, Leonard responded with an offensive rebound and putback.
The Aztecs, who led 34-27 at halftime, trailed only once (2-0) during the first half. They led by as many as 12 points twice during the first 20 minutes, following Leonard's 3-pointer and Gay's long jumper a short time later that gave the Aztecs a 27-15 lead with 7:07 left.
Leonard led the Aztecs with 10 points and six rebounds and Gay added nine points on 4-for-6 shooting.
SDSU shot 54 percent in the first half and 43 percent (20 for 47) for the game.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved