SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego State men's basketball team's school- record 26-game winning streak and undefeated season ended Saturday night with a 66-63 loss to UNLV at Viejas Arena.
The Aztecs held two leads -- 2-0 14 seconds into the game and 14-13, 11 minutes, 46 seconds before halftime. They trailed 37-25 at halftime and by 14 five times in the second half, the last 53-39 with 10:44 to play.
San Diego State then scored seven unanswered points on Malachi Flynn's 3-point basket and layups by KJ Feagin and Aguek Arop, cutting the deficit to 53-46 with 8:15 remaining. However, the Aztecs didn't score again until Matt Mitchell made two free throws with 3:47 left, bringing them within nine, 57-48.
San Diego State was again down by nine when Flynn began a 7-0 run with a 3-point basket with 2:36 to play. Flynn made two free throws with 1:47 remaining. Arop's layup brought the Aztecs to within two, 62-60 with 25 seconds left.
The Runnin' Rebels regained a four-point lead, 64-60, on Elijah Mitrou-Long's two free throws with 19 seconds remaining. Flynn's fourth 3-point basket pulled San Diego State within one, 64- 63, with 14 seconds to play. Mitrou-Long made two more free throws three seconds later. Flynn missed a potentially tying 3-point shot with six seconds left.
Mitchell intercepted an inbounds pass, but his desperation 3-point shot from just behind the midcourt line hit the backboard as time expired. The Aztecs were the last remaining undefeated Division I team. They also had the longest current winning streak in Division I.
The loss also ended a 15-game winning streak in Mountain West Conference play, another school record. "Well, we tasted defeat for the first time and it doesn't taste very good,'' San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
"Anybody that was saying they thought a loss would be good for the Aztecs, we don't feel that way at all. We're vastly disappointed. "We wanted a perfect season, but it didn't happen and that's college basketball. I'm smart enough to know that every game you play is going to be a challenge. We have to use this moment to find a way to get better.''
A men's Division I college basketball team has not completed the season undefeated since the 1975-76 season, when Indiana went 32-0. Mitchell called the loss "a reality check that we're not invincible.'' San Diego State's 26-game winning streak to start a season was the longest in Division I since Gonzaga began the 2016-17 season 29-0 before advancing to the national championship game.
The Aztecs previous school-record winning streak was 20 games, set by the 2010-11 Kawhi Leonard-led team that advanced to the Sweet 16, and tied by the 2013-14 team. San Diego State had won 16 of its last 17 games against UNLV to take their first lead in the series that began in 1966, 37-36.
Flynn led all scorers with 24 points, while Mitchell added 13 and Jordan Schakel 10 for the Aztecs (26-1, 15-1 in conference play). Mitrou-Long led the Runnin' Rebels (15-14, 10-6) with 19 points in 32 minutes off the bench. Amauri Hardy added 17 and fellow guard Bryce Hamilton 11 before a crowd announced at 12,414.