SAN DIEGO — Elijah Mitrou-Long scored 19 points, including two free throws with 11.5 seconds left, and UNLV handed No. 4 San Diego State its first loss of the season, 66-63 on Saturday night, to end the Aztecs’ 26-game winning streak.
San Diego State, which had been the nation’s only undefeated team since Jan. 15, erased most of a 14-point deficit when it pulled to 64-63 on Malachi Flynn‘s 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds left. Mitrou-Long was fouled by Matt Mitchell with 11.5 seconds left and made both free throws.
Flynn missed a contested 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left and the ball went to the Rebels. After a long pass down the court, Mitchell ended up with the ball, and his desperation shot at the buzzer fell short.
SDSU (26-1, 15-1 Mountain West) unveiled the regular-season conference banner before the game and then looked nothing like the team that raced to the best start in school history. The Aztecs trailed by 14 midway through the second half and were down 11 with 4:32 to go.
They were uncharacteristically porous on defense and sloppy on offense, missing easy shots and committing careless turnovers.
SDSU had been projected as the No. 1 seed in the East in the NCAA tournament. Providing the Aztecs don’t stumble again, the loss could keep the Aztecs in the West as the No. 2 seed. Gonzaga is the projected No. 1 seed in the West, where the regionals will be at Staples Center up the freeway in Los Angeles.
Flynn scored 24, Mitchell 13 and Jordan Schakel 10 for SDSU.
SDSU pulled to 62-60 with 25.6 seconds left after Flynn’s two free throws and Aguek Arop‘s layup.
Mitrou-Long then made two free throws with 19.9 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Hardy’s jumper gave UNLV a 44-30 lead three minutes into the second half, before SDSU pulled within seven, thanks to Flynn’s layup and Schakel’s 3-pointer. But Hardy then made a jumper from the free throw line and a layup to put the Rebels back up by double digits.
UNLV took advantage of numerous SDSU breakdowns to take a double-digit lead midway through the first half and pushed it to 37-25 at halftime on a steal and slam dunk by Mitrou-Long.
SDSU had the lead just once, at 14-13 after Flynn’s 3-pointer, then allowed UNLV to go on a 10-0 run. Mitrou-Long started it by converting a 4-point play when he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Flynn. UNLV’s Cheikh Mbacke Diong scored inside, then Hardy hit a floater and Mitrou-Long made a layup.
SDSU’s only points in a four-minute span were two free throws apiece by Mitchell and Flynn. UNLV kept connecting, though, getting a bank shot by Hamilton and a 3-pointer by Mitrou-Long to take its first double-digit lead, 28-18, with 7:12 before halftime.
The Aztecs will drop from their No. 4 spot in the Top 25, which matched the highest ranking in school history.
UNLV: The Rebels lost at home to SDSU by just four points on Jan. 26. They came out strong on the road and let SDSU have the lead just once in the first half, at 14-13 after Flynn’s 3-pointer.
SDSU: Mitchell was recognized before the game for reaching the 1,000-point plateau, which he accomplished in the previous home game, on Feb. 11 against New Mexico.
UNLV hosts Boise State in its home finale on Wednesday night. SDSU hosts Colorado State in its home finale on Tuesday night.