San Diego State vs. UNLV score, takeaways: No. 4 Aztecs, the nation’s last undefeated team, lose first game


No. 4 San Diego State had been the final undefeated team in the country for more than a month, but any hopes for a perfect  season in 2019-20 were crushed in stunning fashion on Saturday night thanks to UNLV. The Aztecs lost to the Runnin’ Rebels 66-63 as their 26-game winning streak, which was the longest in Division I, was snapped. 

San Diego State (26-1, 15-1 MWC) made its best effort to rally at several points in the second half, but lacked the pop in their game on this particular evening to impose their will as the reigning kings of the Mountain West. When the critical possessions arrived in the second half, it was the Rebels (15-14, 10-6) making key defensive stops to create easy baskets to extend their lead. 

A missed 3-pointer by San Diego State in the game’s final seconds sealed the defeat by the Aztecs.

If there’s any good news in defeat it comes in the fact that San Diego State’s NCAA Tournament future remains mostly the same after the result, with CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm noting that the Aztecs will remain a No. 1 seed in his projected bracket.  

The defeat was San Diego State’s first since last season’s loss to  Utah State in the MWC Tournament championship game, as the Aztecs made a run at an NCAA Tournament bid in a down year for the program.

Three things to know about the game: 

1. The loss made a bummer of banner night: If it seemed like San Diego State played like the conference championship was already in the bag, one factor might have been the actual championship banner, for this season, was unveiled before tipoff. The Aztecs’ undefeated start was good enough to lock up the Mountain West regular season championship, and the school decided to go ahead and celebrate the achievement on Feb. 22. Losing to UNLV doesn’t do anything to the banner or San Diego State’s championship status, but it does serve as a reminder that a regular-season conference championship banner is not going to be enough for the Aztecs to consider the 2019-20 season to be a success in the rafters. 

2. UNLV was the worst opponent for an off night: The Rebels played San Diego State close in their first meeting, losing by four in Las Vegas on Jan. 26. UNLV came into the game with some boosted confidence thanks to three wins in the last four games and when shots started falling in the first half they grabbed control of the game. First-year coach T.J. Otzelberger has sold a vision of what UNLV basketball can be and Saturday night was the kind of program-building win that he can sell as the ceiling for the future.

3. San Diego State needs another offensive gear: If there was one place where San Diego State fell particularly short against UNLV, it was offensive execution. When the first and second options weren’t working for the Aztecs, they started to lose their rhythm and empty possessions limited their opportunities to cut into UNLV’s lead. Hero ball with Malachi Flynn (24 points on 7-of-19 shooting with a 6-of-6 showing at the free-throw line) can only get this team so far in the NCAA Tournament. The San Diego State has the pieces to make the fix and avoid falling short in a game with with higher stakes, but the offense that looked lost in the second half against UNLV needs some improvement. 





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