SAN DIEGO — Lying just beyond the baseline, where the court at Viejas Arena turns to concrete, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin was reeling. He had suffered a “big tweak” in his ankle following a rough out-of-bounds collision.
There would have been no shame if he had hung it up for the day. There was 1 minute, 1 second left in the game and the No. 22 Aztecs had a 67-66 lead over No. 12 UNLV.
Franklin had already given his team 22 points and 10 rebounds -- more than admirable in a game that at times looked more like an MMA scrap than a college basketball game.
“We’re a family,” Franklin said. “If my ankle is broken, and they want me out there, I’m out there.”
And it’s a good thing he was. Because with less than a second left in the game, Franklin -- limping and all -- hit an awkward, leaning 5-foot jumper that sent the crowd of 12,414 into a frenzy and propelled the Aztecs to a 69-67 victory.
Just a minute earlier, those same fans were willing him back to his feet. They erupted when he checked back into the game with 30 seconds left.
“Oh yeah,” Franklin said. “I heard them.”
Leading up to Franklin’s heroics, it was the knock-down, drag-out game that had become typical over the past few years when UNLV and San Diego State get together.
“This was a wonderful college game,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. “Obviously, we are the team smiling today. We have had so many games just like this with UNLV. We have been on the good side as of late. UNLV is a really exceptional team.”
UNLV, which has now dropped six straight to the Aztecs, did everything a team is supposed to do to win on the road: win the rebounding battle, get more points from your bench, commit fewer turnovers. The only thing the Rebels couldn’t do was shoot the ball. Anthony Marshall kept UNLV in the game with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting. But no other Rebel managed double-digit scoring.
UNLV came into the game with the best scoring average in the conference at 81.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. The Aztecs didn’t allow UNLV anywhere near that. The Rebs managed just 35 percent from the field, including a measly 28.6 percent in the first half.
The Aztecs shot 43.6 percent on the day, including a solid 48 in the second half. James Rahon provided a big boost with 22 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. But it was the SDSU defense that made the difference.
“We just focused on our defensive schemes,” said San Diego State’s Chase Tapley, who added 11 points and six rebounds. “They are a good pick-and-roll team ... we had to really trust our defense and follow the schemes. We did that Grade-A today.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Aztecs, who travel to face preseason favorite New Mexico at “The Pit” on Wednesday.
“It’s one of the top wins of my career,” said Tapley, who came into the game leading the conference in scoring. “Two great teams were going at it. They were competitive … we just got the upper hand today. It felt good, it still feels good. We have to take this win and enjoy today, but we’ll be back in the lab on Monday to get focused on New Mexico.”
UNLV, which has lost nine of 10 to the Aztecs, is moving on and looking forward to the Feb. 11 rematch in Vegas.
“The way we look at it, we’re 0-1 in the league and they’ve beaten us one time,” UNLV first-year coach Dave Rice said. “It’s different players, it’s just a situation where they have a good basketball team and they held serve on their home floor. And that’s to their credit.”