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#AztecWBB Wins Senior Night Thriller over UNLV, 64-63

Cierra Warren goes up for two of her 17 points on Tuesday vs. UNLV.
Cierra Warren goes up for two of her 17 points on Tuesday vs. UNLV.

March 4, 2014

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SAN DIEGO - The San Diego State women's basketball team closed out the home portion of its 2014 schedule on a winning note Tuesday with a thrilling 64-63 victory over UNLV as part of Senior Night festivities at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs (12-15, 9-8 MW) witnessed a 13-point second-half advantage evaporate as the Lady Rebels stormed back to take a one-point lead in the closing minute. However, a layup by sophomore Deajanae Scurry (Los Angeles, Calif.) and two free throws by junior Khristina Hunter (Fairfield, Calif.) in the final 27 seconds saved the night for the Scarlet and Black.

With the win, SDSU maintains a firm grasp on sixth place in the conference race heading into Friday night's regular-season finale at New Mexico.

Despite 10 three-point field goals by UNLV (11-18, 8-9 MW), the Aztecs sank 21-of-27 free throws on the evening, compared to the Lady Rebels' 5-for-8 clip, to escape with the victory. In addition, SDSU owned a 36-26 advantage in rebounding and outscored UNLV 17-11 on second-chance points.

Individually, the Aztecs were led by senior Cierra Warren (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), who celebrated her final home game in style, scoring 17 points to go with three blocks and three steals. The SDSU cause was also aided by Hunter's 11-point, nine-rebound performance, while sophomore Deidra Smith (Aurora, Colo.) chipped in 10 points of her own. Not to be outdone, the Aztecs received a valuable contribution from freshman Chloe Johnson (Phoenix, Ariz.), who tallied seven points and dished out a career-high six assists.

In a game of that featured several timely runs by each side, the Lady Rebels struck first, reversing a 10-5 deficit as a three-pointer by Rmanii Haynes punctuated a 21-9 outburst during a span of 8:13 to give the visitors a 26-19 advantage with 6:58 left before intermission.

That would be UNLV's final basket of the period; however, as SDSU closed with a 16-0 blitz of its own, including six straight points by junior Chairese Culberson (Oakland, Calif.), while Smith connected on a layup and a jumper to help the Scarlet and Black take a 35-26 lead into the locker room. Adding to their woes, the Lady Rebels missed their final five shots and turned the ball over four times during that stretch.

UNLV came out strong following the break, scoring three consecutive buckets, including two off a pair of Aztec turnovers to trim the margin to 35-32 with barely over a minute elapsed. SDSU stood its ground as Smith responded with a clutch jumper, while Warren soon followed with a layup and two free throws to restore SDSU's nine-point bulge at 41-32 with 16:15 left in the game. The Aztecs kept UNLV off-balance over the ensuing six minutes, and when Warren drained two additional foul shots, the host school had its largest lead of the night at 53-40.

However, the skies quickly opened up inside Viejas Arena at this juncture as the Lady Rebels rained three-pointers on SDSU's parade during a 17-2 run that catapulted the visitors back in front 57-55 with 6:22 remaining. UNLV connected on five triples during that stretch, including three by Mia Bell, while the Aztecs missed three baskets and committed two turnovers.

SDSU fought itself off the ropes with four straight points on a jumper and two free throws by senior Danesha Long (Long Beach, Calif.) to reclaim a 59-58 lead at the 4:24 mark. Following an exchange of single foul shots, Bell came through with an incredible 32-foot shot from the top of the key to put the Lady Rebels back on top 61-60 with 53 seconds remaining.

Then with the shot clock winding down on the Aztecs' next possession, Scurry got loose along the baseline and drove to the hoop for the go-ahead bucket, giving SDSU a 62-61 edge with 27 seconds to go. On the other end, Danielle Miller's jumper from the right wing was off the mark and Hunter corralled the loose ball before getting fouled. The Aztec forward calmly sank both foul shots to essentially ice the game. The Lady Rebels did make one final basket on a put-back at the horn off a desperation three-point attempt, but that came too little too late as SDSU held on.

Bell finished with 25 points, including a 6-for-9 effort from three-point range, while Alana Cesarz added 16 points for UNLV in the loss.

Prior to opening tip, the Aztecs celebrated the accomplishments of their two seniors Long and Warren in a special pre-game ceremony.

San Diego State will travel to New Mexico on Friday, March 4, for its regular-season finale, starting at 7 p.m. MT/ 6 p.m. PT.