LAS VEGAS (AP) Dedan Thomas scored 19 points and put UNLV ahead for good on a 19-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, giving the Rebels a 62-58 victory over No. 21 San Diego State on Tuesday night.

It was the fourth win against a ranked team for the surging Rebels (19-10, 12-5 Mountain West), who have won 10 of 11 overall. Keylan Boone had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

“We didn't start the season out how we wanted to, but we're finishing it out like how we want to,” Boone said.

Elijah Saunders led San Diego State (22-8, 11-6) with 14 points, one of four Aztecs to score in double figures. Jaedon LeDee, who entered first in the conference at 20.8 points per game, was held to 12 on 2-of-12 shooting.

UNLV blocked 10 shots, the fourth time this season the Rebels have hit that number. Eight came in the first half, a major reason San Diego State shot just 22.9% before the break.

San Diego State has dominated this rivalry in recent years, beating the Rebels in 37 of the previous 48 meetings including 13 of 14 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

San Diego State, which missed its first 13 shots, didn't score until LeDee's free throw 4:57 into the game and didn't make a field goal until Reese Waters' 3-pointer with 7:52 elapsed. But the Aztecs got back into contention, going on a 13-1 run after UNLV took a 27-10 lead to close the gap to five points.

“It was a lot of their tenacity to start the game,” Saunders said. “You could tell they were ready to play. Their pressure was throwing us off. We couldn’t run our offense, but as the game went on, we started to settle in.”

The Rebels held onto the lead until Lamont Butler made a 3 and then stole the ball and put in a layup to tie it at 58 with 44.6 seconds left.

Thomas then answered with his basket to put UNLV back in front.

“We knew it was going to be a 40-minute fight and we knew we had to play well for 40 minutes,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said. “But the difference in the game was being able to get that good start, which we really haven’t been able to do against them.”

San Diego State had a chance to take the lead, but UNLV's Kalib Boone blocked Micah Parrish’s 3-point attempt.

Thomas then stepped to the line with 6.5 seconds remaining. Two free throws and the game was virtually over.

He thought back to an 87-86 loss to Utah State two months ago when the Rebels lost on a five-point possession toward the end after leading by four.

“Can't miss free throws,” Thomas said of what was going through his mind. “No five-point plays.”

He made his free throws. And there was no five-point play.


San Diego State: Before losing to the Rebels, the Aztecs were 17-0 against Division I opponents in all games besides Quad 1. It was San Diego State's second loss in four games overall.

UNLV: The Rebels are as hot as any Mountain West team right now. But they'll likely need to win next week's conference tournament in Las Vegas to make the NCAA Tournament because of some head-scratching losses, including to Southern, Loyola Marymount and Air Force. If UNLV had taken care of business in those games, there's little doubt the Rebels would be considered an NCAA Tournament team.


San Diego State: Will host Boise State on Friday in the regular-season finale. A victory clinches a first-round bye in the Mountain West Tournament.

UNLV: Plays at Nevada on Saturday to close the regular season.


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