San Diego State defeated UNLV 53-47 Saturday afternoon at Viejas Arena, thanks to a second-half comeback in which the Aztecs had to make up for an 11-point deficit.
“We were fighting from behind the whole game,” coach Steve Fisher said at the postgame press conference. “We went behind by 11 early in the second half and finally caught them at 40-40.”
A couple second-half adjustments including playing sophomore forward Dakari Allen a season-high 19 minutes for his defensive production, and playing more of senior forward J.J. O’Brien helped propel the Aztecs past the Rebels.
O’Brien finished the game with a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds), and Allen played an integral role in shutting down UNLV freshman guard Rashad Vaughn (17 points), who had been a thorn in the Aztecs side for most of the game.
“We don’t win without a JJ O’Brien in the program on the team,” Fisher said. “He’s a quiet leader. He says a few things at the right moment in the locker room that are very impactful.
SDSU got into its big first half deficit, though, because of a problem that has plagued them all season, poor shooting.
The Aztecs shot 25 percent (6-24) in the first half, and were 0-6 on three-pointers.
Senior guard Aqeel Quinn was the team’s leading scorer at halftime with seven points, he was the only Aztec who had more than four points at the time.
Quinn would go on to have a team-high 14 points, which is the sixth time this season he has led the Aztecs in points this season.
With the win, the Aztecs extended their streak of winning when leading with five minutes remaining in the game to 133.
They also advanced their home winning streak to 25.
The Aztecs have won three games in a row against quality opponents (New Mexico, at No. 25 Wyoming and UNLV) and the winning streak has sparked greater chemistry within the team.
“The way we’re talking to each other, the way we hug each other, the way we slap each other and give each other high-fives, it’s just a whole different aura and feeling in the locker room right now,” Quinn said at the postgame press conference. “If you come in the locker room, you can feel it yourself. We’re definitely coming together right now.”
SDSU will now travel to play Air Force at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 20.