- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - UNLV was hoping to build on its big win at New Mexico when it faced No. 10 San Diego State on Saturday.

One difficult stretch in the first half was just too much to overcome.

Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points, but the Runnin’ Rebels shot 30 percent from the field in a 63-52 loss.

“San Diego State is a good team,” UNLV forward Roscoe Smith said. “They’re a tall and lengthy team like we are. We started slow in the first half but we definitely picked it up in the second half. The rim just wasn’t kind to us today.”

Xavier Thames scored 18 points and Josh Davis had 14 points and 14 rebounds for SDSU (16-1, 5-0 Mountain West), which hasn’t lost since its second game, a 69-60 home defeat against Arizona, which is now ranked No. 1.

The Aztecs grabbed control with a 19-2 run in the first half.

“They’re a physical group,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Their size bothers everybody. They’re all able to offensively rebound the ball. Thames is fantastic. We did a good job of holding Thames down, he was 3 of 14 from the field, but he got 12 free-throw attempts.”

Thames made 11 free throws. SDSU was 21 of 27 from the foul line, compared to 8 for 11 for UNLV.

“It was a very competitive game, as all the games have between San Diego State and our team,” Rice said. “The difference in the game came down to they made more free throws than we did. They were able to get to the free-throw line and we weren’t. Final tally is we lost by 11 and they beat us by 13 at the free-throw line.”

Deville Smith had 13 points and Roscoe Smith finished with 11 for UNLV (11-7, 2-3) which had won eight of its previous 10 games, including a 76-73 victory against the Lobos on Wednesday night.

It was largely a defensive struggle. SDSU shot just 33.9 percent (20 of 59) while the Runnin’ Rebels were 21 for 70 from the field.

“It’s a tough environment to play in,” Roscoe Smith said. “Tough for first-time guys such as myself. We started slow in the first half. We definitely had to adjust to it and we put it together better in the second half. I always heard a lot about the atmosphere at San Diego State. I was anxious to come here, especially after our big win in Albuquerque but we knew that we could compete with them. We did cut the lead to five points so we definitely competed with them. It was a tough game.”

SDSU led 34-20 at halftime and was up by 10 midway through the second half before UNLV closed to 50-45 when Deville Smith scored on a nice spin move. The Aztecs responded with one free throw apiece by Winston Shepard and Josh Davis, and a slam dunk by JJ O’Brien to make it 54-45 with 4:02 to go.

Davis and O’Brien each made big shots down the stretch to help the Aztecs stay in front, and Thames made four free throws in the final 1:03.

The Runnin’ Rebels scored six straight points in the second half to close to 44-38, but the Aztecs then had consecutive alley-oops from Skylar Spencer and Davis to re-take a 10-point lead and fire up the crowd at Viejas Arena.

After a ragged start by both teams, SDSU ripped off its big run to take a 28-11 lead with just more than three minutes left in the first half.

Aqeel Quinn scored five straight points on a layup and a 3-pointer and Thames had a jumper to cap a 13-point burst by the Aztecs. After Roscoe Smith hit two foul shots for UNLV, Spencer had two baskets sandwiched around another Thames jumper.

UNLV responded by scoring seven straight points, including consecutive buckets by Dejean-Jones - one of them a slam dunk after a steal - and a 3-pointer by Kevin Olekaibe.

SDSU scored six of the final eight points, including Thames‘ 3-pointer with 42 seconds left, to take a 34-20 halftime lead.

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