LAS VEGAS -- UNLV shot inconsistently, blew a 13-point lead late in the second half and went more than four minutes without scoring a point.
But Mike Moser made a key steal late that gave the No. 14 Runnin' Rebels just enough defense to sneak past No. 13 San Diego State 65-63 Saturday.
"When you lose a game like this, you feel like a piece of your heart was ripped out," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said.
Moser scored 19 points, while UNLV (22-4, 6-2 Mountain West) forced three turnovers in the final 42 seconds to win.
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Moser's steal and pass set up Anthony Marshall for the go-ahead layup. The Aztecs' Chase Tapley had made a 3-pointer to put San Diego State up by one point with less than two minutes to play.
San Diego State (20-4, 6-2) didn't score again, despite several chances to tie or take the lead.
Tapley finished with 22 points, 16 in the second half.
"In the last two minutes, we started guarding the way we're supposed to," said UNLV guard Justin Hawkins, who came up with a steal in the final second to stop the Aztecs.
"I think we showed we want to be Mountain West champions," he said.
The Rebels and Aztecs split their conference series for the season, each team earned a two-point win. They won't face each other again unless they meet in the conference tournament in Las Vegas next month.
Moser missed his first five shots of the game before finding his touch at the end of the first half, scoring nine points during a 15-4 run that put the Rebels up 37-29 at halftime.
UNLV's Bryce Massamba paced the Rebels at the start of the second half, scoring his team's first 10 points. But San Diego State's defense kept the Rebels scoreless over a four-minute stretch while Tapley brought his team back from an 11-point deficit.
"We had a chance to win, and we came up short," Tapley said.
UNLV's defense bailed out its poor shooting. UNLV shot less than 41 percent for the game, and made just one of 11 3-point attempts and one of five free throws during the second half.
Chace Stanback and Marshall -- UNLV's second- and third-leading scorers coming into the game -- combined for a total of four field goals and just one 3-pointer in eight attempts.
"We let down a little bit and our shots weren't falling. We lost focus," said Oscar Bellfield, who finished with 15 points. "We just stuck together and closed it out."
UNLV coach Dave Rice said his team counts on defense when his players are doing well.
"The bottom line is we never quit playing," he said.
UNLV missed eight of its first 10 shots, but San Diego State was unable to extend its lead beyond 6 points less than six minutes into the game.
Xavier Thames hit a long 3 for the Aztecs as the half ended, but didn't release the ball in time to allow the basket to count.
Jamaal Franklin finished with 15 points for the Aztecs.
Moser had nine rebounds, one shy of recording his 14th double-double of the year.