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Andy Wittry | | February 23, 2020

How UNLV ended San Diego State's perfect season

Elijah Mitrou-Long after UNLV's upset of San Diego State: 'We match up well with them'

The 2020 NCAA tournament will not include any undefeated teams after unranked UNLV’s 66-63 upset of No. 4, previously unbeaten San Diego State on Saturday night.

For the fourth time this season, the Aztecs entered halftime trailing.

For the first time, however, they were unable to overcome the deficit in the game’s final 20 minutes.

UNLV, which entered Saturday with a 14-14 record, upset No. 4 San Diego State on the Aztecs’ home court.

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A hot-shooting first half gave the Rebels a 37-25 lead at the break. UNLV shot 57.7 percent from the field in the first half (15-of-26), including 6-of-13 on 3-pointers. San Diego State shot just 33 percent in the first half and 2-of-12 on threes.

The Aztecs made a furious comeback, cutting the deficit to 64-63 with 14 seconds left, but a game in which they shot less than 40 percent from the field (38.9%), less than 30 percent from three (29.6%), less than 70 percent from the free throw line (68.4%) and never led by more than two points caught up to them.

Matt Mitchell’s foul on UNLV’s Elijah Mitrou-Long sent the latter to the ground and while it was deemed not to have been a flagrant foul, Mitrou-Long sank both free throws, extending the Rebels’ lead back to four points.

Malachi Flynn’s game-tying 3-point attempt was off the mark, just 10 seconds of game time after Flynn had trimmed a four-point deficit to one with a three.

When San Diego State goes back and watches the game film, there are more than a few plays that will stand out as the now-one-loss Aztecs reflect on their lone blemish this season.

They allowed UNLV's Bryce Hamilton to score an uncontested layup just five seconds into the second half, San Diego State's Yanni Wetzell missed his first two field goal attempts of the second half just short off the front of the rim and there was a miscommunication that led to the Aztecs passing the ball out of bounds soon after.

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The team that had been so precise, so efficient and so unflappable for the first 26 games of the season wasn't in its typical form on Saturday.

No team has had a perfect season since Indiana went 32-0 in 1976. Including that year, there have only been seven undefeated seasons in Division I basketball since the start of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Only Wichita State and Kentucky have taken perfect records into the NCAA tournament since 2014. That year, the Shockers reached the Round of 32 at 35-0 before their only loss of the season. The following year, the Wildcats finished 38-1, carrying a perfect record into the Final Four.

While San Diego State didn't reach Kentucky's 38-0 undefeated start from 2015 – the longest undefeated start of any team this century – the Aztecs' 26-0 start is the fifth-best record to start a season since 2000. Only Kentucky (38-0 in 2015), Wichita State (35-0 in 2014), Illinois (29-0 in 2005), Gonzaga (29-0 in 2017) and Saint Joseph's (27-0 in 2004) have had a better undefeated record to start a season in that time span.

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