San Diego State is the lone ranked team in the Mountain West and the only unbeaten in conference play, but coach Steve Fisher said it can't be overconfident -- especially given its next opponent.
The 10th-ranked Aztecs seek a 15th straight victory while looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to visiting UNLV on Saturday.San Diego State (15-1, 4-0) is riding its longest winning streak since winning its first 20 games of the 2010-11 season, not losing since falling Nov. 14 to current No. 1 Arizona.The Aztecs beat Fresno State 68-60 on Wednesday behind Xavier Thames' game-high 28 points."Sometimes your worth to a team doesn't show up in the box score. It does with Xavier," Fisher said. "He has been playing at such a level that we expect him to be doing what he's doing."Expectations also are high for the rest of the club, though Fisher said his team needs to maintain its focus."We feel good about the fact we're 4-0 in the (Mountain West). But if you're thinking about being 4-0 in the league, you're in trouble in your next game," Fisher said. "So we're well aware of the size of this game on Saturday. We're playing a very, very good UNLV team."The Runnin' Rebels (11-6, 2-2) have won the last three matchups by a total of 11 points, including a 72-70 victory Feb. 16. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by two points."They're always going to be close games, and I know we lost the last three times to them," said Thames, a senior who leads the Aztecs in scoring at 16.9 points per game. "I'm not expecting anything but a close game. We know UNLV is a great team, and we just have to come out and be ready to match their intensity."San Diego State leads the country in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 35.8 mark from the field, and it leads the Mountain West in scoring defense at 55.9 points per game.Fisher, though, is concerned about UNLV's weapons. Leading scorer Bryce Dejean-Jones is averaging 21.8 points in his last five games, while Roscoe Smith is scoring 12.0 points per game while averaging a conference best 12.5 rebounds."They can hurt you in a number of ways," Fisher said. "We've had many games that have gone right down to the last 30 seconds with either team having a chance to win."I don't want it to be a mirage when people say San Diego State has the best defense in the country. I want that to be reality."UNLV ended a two-game skid with a 76-73 win at New Mexico on Wednesday, as Dejean-Jones scored 23 points and Deville Smith added 17."We came in with great energy and this was a terrific win for us," coach Dave Rice said. "Everyone who went into the game contributed."The Rebels committed a season-low six turnovers and went 7 of 13 from 3-point range."It was one of those games, like a lot of our games, that could have gone either way," Rice said. "And we made enough plays to win."UNLV's 82-75 victory at San Diego State on Jan. 16, 2013, ended a four-game road losing streak in the series.