Devin Watson
Devin Watson moves the ball past UNLV guards at the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas on March 14, 2019. Photo credit: Ernie Anderson/SDSU

San Diego State was projected to win against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday afternoon. And win it did, but it wasn’t pretty.

The Aztecs (20-12, 11-7 Mountain West) were held to 29.3 shooting percentage and surrendered 10 offensive rebounds and still managed to beat the Rebels, 63-55.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a game where we’ve kept a team to under 30 percent from the field and lost,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “This is uncharted water for me. That’s amazing.”

At this juncture in the season, everyone in college basketball knows: Win and advance or lose and go home. The Aztecs won and now advanced to the semifinals in Mountain West Tournament against No. 14 Nevada.

The Rebels (17-14, 11-7) were held to a 32.3 field goal percentage but managed to stay in the game until Jeremy Hemsley sank a 3 at the 3:37 mark to give the Aztecs a 50-47 lead. That was Hemsley’s only points for the night.

“The game was hard-fought,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said. “When two opponents knew each other this well then it’s going to be hard-fought. Nothing came easy.”

Both Dutcher and Menzies were assistant coaches together at San Diego State.

“Marvin had his team prepared,” Dutcher said. “They defended us as well as anybody defended us all year.”

This was the seventh straight wins for the Aztecs at the Rebels homecourt, and third this season. SDSU has won 15 of the last 16 meetings against UNLV.

With under two minutes to go, Devin Watson pulled a defensive switch and pump faked during a 3-point attempt and drew a foul from Nick Blair. It was a costly mistake for UNLV. Watson made all three free throws for a 55-49 lead.

“I’m not surprised they still go for it because they know I’m a good shooter and if they don’t go for it, they know I’m going to shoot it,” Watson said. ” I just got him on a ‘hezy’ (hesitation move) and then I pump faked, and normally they jump straight up but he jumped forward. So I knew I was going to get him. It was a big play.”

Watson ended the night with 19 points and tied the Aztec’s tournament record with 11 free throws made. Lorenzo Wade, who is currently the team’s student manager, made 11 free throws against Brigham Young on March 13, 2009.

Jalen McDaniels led the Aztecs with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

The Aztecs are now one game away from making it to the NCAA Tournament. They face the No. 1 seed Wolfpack on Friday.