(17-13, 10-6 MW)

San Diego State 63

(23-8, 13-3 MW)

    9:00 PM ET, March 10, 2006

    Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

    1 2 T
    UNLV 26 3460
    SDSU 33 3063

    Top Performers

    UNLV: W. Adams 14 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl

    San Diego State: M. Slaughter 16 Pts, 14 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

    San Diego State 63, UNLV 60

    DENVER (AP) -- The best player in the Mountain West Conference has visions of bringing his game and team to a bigger stage.

    And Brandon Heath took another step toward that Friday night.

    The San Diego State guard hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to lift the Aztecs to a 63-60 victory over UNLV in the MWC tournament semifinals. Now, his team needs one more win to make that other tournament -- the NCAAs.

    "I don't think you can look at Brandon's numbers," coach Steve Fisher said of the MWC Player of the Year's 2-for-9 shooting night from 3-point range. "You've got to look at when he makes important baskets. He did that for us down the stretch tonight."

    Heath finished with 22 points and didn't hesitate to shoot with the game on the line. Standing near the top of the arc, he took a pass from John Sharper and swished the shot to give the Aztecs (23-8) a 61-60 lead.

    "John Sharper had a look at the basket, but instead he passed up that shot and made the extra pass because I had a better look," Heath said. "That was basically what it was, winning a 50-50 game down the stretch and being unselfish as a team."

    On Saturday in the finals, the top-seeded Aztecs will try to ensure only the fifth trip to the NCAAs in the program's not-so-spectacular history when they play the winner of the late semifinal between Wyoming and Utah.

    If they get one more clutch effort from Heath and one more monster game from Marcus Slaughter, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds, it should be good enough.

    What they can't do is depend on an at-large berth. Even though their latest win tied a school record for victories in the Division I era at San Diego State, and even though they have already celebrated their first regular-season conference title since 1978, their RPI rating is only in the 60s.

    Slaughter said he's ready, even though he's been a major workhorse, amassing 33 points and 33 rebounds in two games this week.

    "I never get tired," said the forward, who joined Heath on the all-conference team this season. "We're trying to win a championship right now. And coach said to win a championship, it takes defensive rebounding, and we showed that today, and we're going to continue to show it throughout this tournament. I'm not tired. I still want more."

    On the possession after Heath's 3, UNLV's Curtis Terry got called for walking on a jump-stop near the free-throw line.

    "It's human frailty sometimes," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said of the Terry walk.

    Sharper followed with two free throws to put the Aztecs up by three with 6.3 seconds left.

    San Diego State fouled Ricky Morgan on the next possession, but he missed the first free throw and the Rebels (17-13) never had a chance for the intentional miss and chance at a putback to tie.

    Next, Kruger's fourth-seeded team will wait to see if 17 wins are good enough to earn an invite to the NIT for the fifth straight year.

    Heath and Slaughter clearly saved this game for the Aztecs after it appeared to be slipping away.

    The duo scored every point for their team -- save Sharper's two free throws at the tail end -- over the final 7:37 to rally the Aztecs from a 49-46 deficit.

    Led by solid inside play by Dustin Villepigue and nice floor work by Jo'Van Adams, the Rebels turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a 41-37 lead about halfway through the second half.

    UNLV played great defense, too, denying San Diego State a basket in the paint for the first 10 minutes of the half. But Slaughter made four free throws and Heath hit a pair of 12-foot runners to put San Diego State ahead 56-53.

    From there, it was a back-and-forth game.

    On the game-winner, Heath's persistence shone through. He wasn't afraid to spot up and shoot after missing an open look on the previous possession. He only went 9-for-21 from the floor -- but made the shots when the game was on the line.

    "He made buckets that for most people are tough shots. But Brandon makes those," Kruger said. "I thought our guys battled him defensively and made him shoot relatively difficult shots. He stepped up there when they needed big buckets and he converted them."

    Adams had 14 points for the Rebels and Morgan scored 13.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 60 63
    FG Made-Attempted 25-62 (.403) 20-54 (.370)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-18 (.222) 4-19 (.211)
    FT Made-Attempted 6-9 (.667) 19-23 (.826)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 16 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 10

    2005-06 Season

    Jan 14, 2006 @SDSU 83, UNLV 67Recap
    Feb 16, 2006 SDSU 81, @UNLV 70Recap
    » Mar 10, 2006 @SDSU 63, UNLV 60Recap