SAN DIEGO -- San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin was sprawled in pain just beyond the end line after twisting his right ankle while going for a rebound in the closing minutes of the No. 22 Aztecs' showdown with No. 12 UNLV.
Fellow guard Chase Tapley came over and cajoled Franklin to get up.
"I said, `Hey bro, you can't, you can't. You've got to get up. We need you. You have to get up, bro. You're not hurt.' He did get up. We needed him. We really did need him. He hit the game-winner," Tapley said.
Franklin sat out a possession, came back in and made an off-balance layup with three-tenths of a second left to give the Aztecs a thrilling 69-67 victory over UNLV on Saturday in a marquee Mountain West Conference opener.
SDSU held UNLV to 14 points below its season average and beat the Runnin' Rebels for the sixth straight time and ninth in 10 meetings.
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Franklin, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, set a screen for Xavier Thames, got a pass back at the top of the key and drove the lane to the basket.
Officials reviewed the play and determined there were three-tenths left on the clock. On the inbound play, UNLV's Mike Moser stepped over the line and the Aztecs got the ball.
Franklin had no intention of sitting out the final possession.
"We're a family. If my ankle's broke, if they want me out there, I'm out there," he said. "It was a big tweak, but it didn't really hurt. The adrenaline was going. Chase was the first person there, James (Rahon), my other teammates were there pushing me, telling me to get up. When you hear words of encouragement like that, you have to get up."
Franklin said the ball could have gone to anyone on the winning play.
"We ran a good play," Franklin said. "My jump shot hadn't been falling so I had to get to the rim. I was going to try to draw a foul. Anthony Marshall stepped up and tried to take a charge but I just sidestepped and got a basket."
James Rahon added 22 points for SDSU (15-2), which won its eighth straight game. The Aztecs shared the regular-season MWC title with BYU last year before winning the conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals.
Anthony Marshall tied his career high with 26 points for UNLV (16-3), the preseason favorite to win the league title. The Runnin' Rebels had their seven-game winning streak snapped.
UNLV had only two leads and shot a season-low 35.3 percent from the floor.
"I think the first thing is to give a lot of credit to Jamaal Franklin," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "That is a heck of a hard shot. We were just a little bit late on the exchange and he made a hard shot."
Said Marshall: "He made a good play. He had Tapley in the corner and you don't want to leave a 3-point shooter like Tapley. He just made a good play."
UNLV big man Brice Massamba made one of two free throws to tie it with 23.6 seconds left.
Rahon and Franklin both made clutch shots down the stretch for the Aztecs in the wild and fast-paced game.
On a fast break, Franklin dribbled behind his back then made a reverse layup for a 57-52 lead. After Massamba scored inside for UNLV, Rahon hit a 3-pointer for a 60-54 lead.
UNLV tied it on Justin Hawkins' 3-pointer with 3:42 to play before Franklin converted a three-point play to put the Aztecs up 65-62 with 2:54 to play.
Chase Tapley had 11 for the Aztecs.
"This was a wonderful college basketball game," SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. "Obviously, we're the team smiling. We've had so many games just like this with UNLV. And we've been on the good side of late."
Fisher singled out assistant coaches Brian Dutcher, Mark Fisher and Tony Bland for their defensive game plan.
`'We didn't give them a lot of easy looks," Fisher said. "We said, `Make sure you know where [Chace] Stanback is,' and we made it, for the most part, hard for them to get the ball in the basket. When you do that, shots become more difficult. ... So we won the game because we defended. From our perspective, it would have been very, very devastating having led for probably 39 of the 40 minutes."
After shooting poorly and trailing 34-29 at halftime, the Runnin' Rebels used a 9-1 run early in the second half to take a 41-40 lead - their first since the opening two minutes of the game. Moser made two inside shots, Justin Hawkins hit a layup and Marshall finished the run with a slam dunk and a free throw for a three-point play.
San Diego State jumped back in front 43-42 on Tapley's jumper with 15:14 left.
Two minutes in, Massamba knocked down Thames then stood over him, drawing a technical foul as well as a personal foul.
Franklin made both free throws for the technical and Thames made one of two for the personal, starting an 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Thames, giving SDSU a 10-3 lead.
SDSU took a 24-14 lead after Franklin converted a three-point play and Tapley made a shot in the lane with 6:21 to go before halftime. The Runnin' Rebels shot poorly the entire first half, making only 10 of 35 shots (28.6 percent).
The Aztecs were coming off the easiest stretch of their schedule, although winless Chicago State gave them a scare before SDSU won 73-65 on Tuesday night.