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Gregory Bull, Associated Press
San Diego State's Chase Tapley (22) greets fans after beating No. 12 UNLV in an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in San Diego. San Diego State won 69-67.

SAN DIEGO — UNLV came down to earth in its Mountain West Conference opener, falling 14 points under its season average of 81 and having its worst shooting performance of the year.

Jamaal Franklin made an off-balance layup with three-tenths of a second left to give No. 22 San Diego State a thrilling 69-67 victory over the No. 12 Running' Rebels on Saturday in a marquee conference opener.

Franklin, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, had just come back into the game after landing hard while going for a rebound and then sitting out for a possession. He set a screen for Xavier Thames, then got a pass back at the top of the key and drove to the basket.

On the inbound play, UNLV's Mike Moser stepped over the line and the Aztecs got the ball.

James Rahon added 22 points for SDSU (15-2), which won its eighth straight game. The Aztecs shared the regular-season MWC title with BYU last year before winning the conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals.

Anthony Marshall tied his career high with 26 points for UNLV (16-3), the preseason favorite to win the league title. The Runnin' Rebels had their seven-game winning streak snapped.

"It's one game out of 14," Marshall said. "It's really not going to dictate the conference."

Coach Dave Rice agreed.

"One game, whether it's a win or a loss, doesn't make or break us, in terms of one of our goals, which is to win a conference title," the coach said.

UNLV big man Brice Massamba made one of two free throws to tie it with 23.6 seconds left.

Rahon and Franklin both made clutch shots down the stretch for the Aztecs in the wild and fast-paced game.

On a fast break, Franklin dribbled behind his back then made a reverse layup for a 57-52 lead. After Massamba scored inside for UNLV, Rahon hit a 3-pointer for a 60-54 lead.

UNLV tied it on Justin Hawkins' 3-pointer with 3:42 to play before Franklin converted a three-point play to put the Aztecs up 65-62 with 2:54 to play.

Chase Tapley had 11 for the Aztecs.

After shooting poorly and trailing 34-29 at halftime, the Runnin' Rebels used a 9-1 run early in the second half to take a 41-40 lead — their first since the opening two minutes of the game. Moser made two inside shots, Justin Hawkins hit a layup and Marshall finished the run with a slam dunk and a free throw for a three-point play.

San Diego State jumped back in front 43-42 on Tapley's jumper with 15:14 left.

UNLV shot just 35.3 percent from the floor.

"There were times when the game could have gotten away but we showed a lot of character," Rice said. "In the end, San Diego State made one more play than we did. To their credit, they found a way to win a very hard-fought game."

Two minutes in, Massamba knocked down Thames then stood over him, drawing a technical foul as well as a personal foul.

Franklin made both free throws for the technical and Thames made one of two for the personal, starting an 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Thames, giving SDSU a 10-3 lead.

SDSU took a 24-14 lead after Franklin converted a three-point play and Tapley made a shot in the lane with 6:21 to go before halftime. The Runnin' Rebels shot poorly the entire first half, making only 10 of 35 shots (28.6 percent).

The Aztecs were coming off the easiest stretch of their schedule, although winless Chicago State gave them a scare before SDSU won 73-65 on Tuesday night.