In what would be a rematch of last year's Mountain West Conference final, the San Diego State Aztecs once again broke the hearts of the UNLV Rebels on a last second basket by senior guard D.J. Gay
The Aztecs had a 10-point lead at the half, but began to falter midway through the second half and the Rebels tied the game at 66 with 2:08 left to play.
With time winding down, Malcolm Thomas was fouled twice and made four clutch free throws to keep it close for San Diego State.
With :35.9 left to go in the game and the scored tied at 72, UNLV called a timeout to set up would could be their final possession of the game. There was a :07 differential between the shot clock and game clock, so the Rebels had plenty of time to set up a play.
At first glance, it looked as if the Rebels were going to kill the clock and go for the last second basket, however, that is not how it ended up.
Junior guard Oscar Bellfield had the ball and was looking to pass to junior guard Chace Stanback who was heading towards the basket, but San Diego State sophomore guard Chase Tapley was able to get hand on the ball and break up the pass.
Tapley recovered the ball for the Aztecs and passed it to D.J. Gay with :24 left to go in the game.
Now, Gay found himself in a familiar place. Just a month earlier, with time running down during a game at Colorado State, he drained a long two-point shot to win the game and spoil the Rams chances of upsetting the Aztecs on the road.
Fast-forward to Friday night's semifinal game against UNLV. Gay drove down the court with time running out, got the ball across midcourt and decided that there was no need to call a timeout.
The Aztecs set up a pick and roll and Gay drove to the basket, scoring on a floating jumper with :04.9 left to go the game.
The Thomas & Mack Center erupted with cheers from the Aztecs faithful in the stands.
A last ditch effort by the Rebels came up short and the Aztecs would advance to the conference final for the second time in two years.
For the third time this year, the San Diego State Aztecs will be facing off against the Brigham Young Cougars, who have handed the Aztecs their only losses this season.
Saturday afternoon's Mountain West Conference final has bigger ramifications than just an automatic bid to the "Big Dance," it could also mean a higher seed in the NCAA tournament for the winner.
Could the third time be the charm for the Aztecs against the Cougars? We will just have to wait and see. While I hope the Aztecs win, all I can say for certain is that it will be one great game!
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