Lenny Ignelzi
January 17, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) If San Diego State is ahead with five minutes to play, it's pretty much automatic that the Aztecs are going to win.

There's a pretty good reason for that.

''We want to make sure we're playing harder than our opponent, especially when winning is on the line and we've had a tendency to be able to make plays,'' coach Steve Fisher said after the Aztecs closed with a 22-7 run in the final 12 1/2 minutes to beat UNLV 53-47 Saturday.

The Aztecs erased an 11-point, second-half deficit and won for the 133rd straight time after leading with five minutes to go. UNLV scored only four points in the final 4:51.

Aqeel Quinn, who led the Aztecs with 14 points, banked in a jumper with 5:12 left to give SDSU a 45-43 lead.

UNLV's Rashad Vaughn made two free throws to tie it at 45 before SDSU went ahead for good on JJ O'Brien's baseline turnaround jumper. Including that shot, SDSU scored eight of the last 10 points.

O'Brien had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Aztecs (14-4, 4-1 Mountain West).

The Aztecs appeared headed for their first home loss since early last season, as they trailed 33-22 early in the second half and 40-31 with 12:46 to play.

That's when SDSU turned it around on both ends of the court, starting with a 9-0 run to tie it at 40. Dakarai Allen made a bank shot and a free throw, Quinn a layup, Angelo Chol a jump hook and O'Brien a layup.

Patrick McCaw answered with a 3-pointer to put UNLV up 43-40. SDSU came right back with a free throw by Skylar Spencer, a dunk by Trey Kell and a floater by Quinn for a 45-43 lead.

''If you guard hard, you have a chance. We were fighting from behind the whole game,'' Fisher said.

He pointed to a sequence after the Aztecs tied the game.

''We finally caught them at 40-40, have a breakaway, Dakarai goes in, misses it, falls down, they go down the other way and hit a 3 for a five-point swing. So now we're down 43-40. I think a team that didn't have veterans and a team that didn't say, `Next play,' might have let up a little bit, but we didn't. And they went almost the last five minutes without a point before (Cody) Doolin made a layup at the very end of the game.''

The Aztecs say they don't pay attention to the streak, only that they need to play tough in the closing minutes.

''Under five minutes, that's pretty much crunch time, so we have to make big-time plays,'' Winston Shepard said.

Shutting UNLV down in the final five minutes was due to ''big-time defense. That's what we pride ourselves in,'' Shepard said.

''We lost some of our intensity down the stretch,'' McCaw said. ''I think the last seven minutes, we started falling off with our energy. We fought hard, but we just came up short.''

Vaughn scored 17 for UNLV (10-8, 1-4), McCaw 15 and Goodluck Okonoboh 11. Chris Wood scored only two points, nearly 13 under his average.

SDSU, coming off a victory at No. 25 Wyoming, had a miserable first half, shooting only 25 percent and committing 10 turnovers.

UNLV took control with an 11-2 run in the first half that included two 3-point shots by McCaw and a slam dunk by Okonoboh.

UNLV twice led by six points before San Diego State got a layup by Quinn and a fallaway jumper by O'Brien to pull to 17-15 with 7:12 left before half.

SDSU scored only two more points the rest of the half, on free throws by O'Brien, while UNLV got a baseline jumper by McCaw, an inside shot by Okonoboh and a 3-pointer by Vaughn to lead 24-17 at halftime.

TIP-INS

UNLV has lost two straight and five of six.

San Diego State shot only 25 percent in the first half.

QUOTABLE

O'Brien played 38 minutes, ''and that's too many minutes,'' Fisher said. ''But when they kept saying, `JJ's tired, JJ's tired,' I said, `So am I.' And we kept him in. I'm happy for him. And I'm glad to see he's using the backboard on those shots when he gets inside.''

UP NEXT

UNLV hosts New Mexico on Wednesday night.

San Diego State is at Air Force on Tuesday night.

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