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The Mountain West is now for sure getting four teams into the NCAA tournament. This matchup was the complete opposite of the previous round games which were high scoring and down to the wire. The first half of this game was less then desirable to watch as the game was scoreless for the first four minutes and half ended with San Diego State up 25-22. Neither team was able to shoot the ball which was a surprise since the Rebels were playing on their home court in front of sell out crowd that was a pro Rebel crowd.
The second half was only slightly better then the first half, but neither team really shot all that well. Both teams shot under forty percent from the field. The Rebels did look to look like they were going to pull away as they lead 38-34 halfway through the second half after coming back from a 28-24 deficit. Then the Aztecs decided to shoot the ball well to take control of the game, and Rebels kept shooting their 30 something percent. Plus the rebels had five of their 15 turnovers in the last eight minutes of the game.
The player of the game was MWC freshman of the year Kawhi Leonard who had 16 points and rebounds to lead all players. While the home team Rebels leading scorer was Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield had eleven each. Besides that no player stood out from either team.
First off the game is a 7PM eastern tip on Versus which is the third network in three days for the Mountain West, so no reason to cast blame for people who had a tough time watching the tournament. However, if you are a DirecTv subscriber find alternate solutions to watch the game since the channel is still off the air.
Now onto the game, each team pulled off the upset in last nights game with UNLV over BYU, and San Diego State defeating New Mexico. The San Diego State win makes them pretty much a lock to the NCAA tournament, as is UNLV. However, there is a small amount of concern since Houston upset UTEP in the C-USA final, and that could mean one less at large spot if UTEP gets in.
UNLV has the home court advantage in this matchup since it is being played on their home court, so expect at least a 70-30 fan advantage for the Lobos, and expect UNLV to come out early feeding off the energy of the home crowd. Both teams played amazing basketball last night which should make tonights games as entertaining as the previous two rounds.
Look for the stars of both teams to continue their great play they have been showcasing in the tournament. The key player for San Diego State is Billy White who had a career high 28 points in last nights win, as well as super frosh Kawhi Leonard. As for the Rebels watchout for Tre'Von Willis who is their leader but he did suffer a minor ankle injury but is expected to play, and the other Rebel to watch out for Chace Stanback.
Again tip is 7PM eastern and is on the Versus network.
Here are the highlights from last nights game between San Diego State vs. New Mexico and UNLV vs. BYU. There could have been many reasons to miss the game, CBS College Sports is not offered in your area or the games were to late for you east coasters.
Do not forget tonight's championship game is between New Mexico and UNLV with a 7PM eastern tip is on Versus. Heads up to DirecTv fans Versus is still off the air, so find a way to see this game because if it is as good as what the tournament has been so far then it will be an epic game.
The first half seemed like it was going to be a high scoring affair as UNLV was up 41-34, but then the defenses kicked in for the second half for both schools. The start of the game both schools were on fire and BYU's Jimmer Fredette looked like he was going to have a repeat performance from last night as he scored BYU's 10 of 19 points in six minutes. Then the Rebel defense took it to Fredette who managed only two free throws for the rest of the half. The Rebel defense combined with their offense was able to have a seven point lead at the half.
The end of the first half started the same as the second half as UNLV pulled ahead with a 51-42 lead midway through the half and were led behind their defense. The Rebels were using a press and were playing a physical style of defense to stop BYU's explosive offense.
The Cougars were able to fight back from a nine point deficit to eventually tie the game in the second half at 61 a piece, but then the play of the game was when UNLV's Tre'von Willis drove to the hoop to put the Rebels up three with a minute left in the game. With sixteen seconds left and BYU down three the Rebels put the clamps down on Fredette by bringing a triple team which forced a pass to Michael Loyd who shot and badly missed a layup which would have put BYU within one. Down the stretch BYU was without Jackson Emery due to foul trouble, and freshman Taylor Haws sat out due to his eye being swollen shut from being poked against TCU.
Tre'Von Willis scored 18 points, Chace Stanback added 17 and Brice Massamba chipped in with 13 for the third-seeded Rebels. BYU's Jimmer Fredette lead BYU with 30 points and the only other Cougar in double figures was Michael Loyd who had 11.
Third seeded UNLV will take on number four seed San Diego State for the conference title tomorrow at 7PM eastern and the game will be on Versus (sorry DirecTv subscribers).
San Diego State looks to be off the bubble and squarely in the NCAA tournament after upsetting top seed New Mexico, 72-69. Even if the Aztecs do not win the tournament title tomorrow night against either BYU or UNLV they appear to be in the tournament. New Mexico was ranked in the top 10 in the human polls as well as the all important RPI, so this was a high quality win for San Diego State. The Aztecs ran out to an early 18-7 lead over New Mexico, and the game looked to be a blowout in favor of the Aztecs. Then New Mexico woke up to go on a 32-10 run to end the half with a one point lead.
The second half was a back and forth game with the big players stepping up on each side. Las Vegas native and San Diego State forward Billy White had a career high with 28 points to lead all scorers. Then there was freshman of the year Kawhi Leonard who stepped up big to finish with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The game looked to be over when the Aztecs were up 62-55 with just under seven minutes left in the second half, but then New Mexico's Darrington Hobson and Ramon Martinez stepped it up to have a chance to win this game.
The officials were having problems with the clock tonight as San Diego State had a lay up count when the shot clock was clearly at zero and was not reversed when the officials took the time to review the monitors. That made basket could have been the difference in this game. Also, a shot clock violation against San Diego State with 11 seconds was not called and the clock ran down to just under eight seconds and once again the officials went to the replay monitor and did not add time back on the clock. Those officiating errors must be taken care of for the other semifinal and tomorrow nights final.
"It felt like somebody put their hand completely in my eye socket."
The shot to his eye was so severe that Haws' contact lens was pushed behind his eyeball and trainers originally had trouble finding it. And his left was completely swollen shut.
He missed shoot around earlier today to visit an eye doctor, because his eye is still severely swollen. It is safe to assume that his status will be a game time decision.
Friday’s slate of Mountain West Tournament games
#1 New Mexico vs. #4 San Diego State, 9:00 PM ET on CBS College Sports
The Aztecs are squarely on the Bubble Watch and a win over regular season champ New Mexico would put them in.
#2 BYU vs. #3 UNLV, 11:30 PM ET on CBS College Sports
One of the most bitter rivals in the nation for hoops takes place tonight, and it just happens to be on the home court of the Rebels. Note to UNLV put a body on Jimmer Fredette just a friendly suggestion.
Utah tried to follow up the trend with the lower seeds giving the higher seeds a tough game, but they ran out of gas in the second half. The Utes made a good effort in the first half to stay with UNLV, even when the Rebels were out ahead by 13 Utah made a charge to close the gap. The score was 31-30 in favor of UNLV with 18:10 left in the second half when the Rebels went on a 18-3 run and never looked back. During this run Utah was unable to slow down the Rebel attack due to turnovers, offensive fouls, and unable to score on offense.
UNLV's pressure defense caused havoc for the Utes all night. Forcing 15 turnovers and holding the overmatched Utes to a dismal 32 percent shooting. Tre'von Willis and Anthony Marshall led the balanced effort for UNLV with 13 points each. MWC Defensive Player of the Year, David Foster, had the biggest impact for the Utes with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Carlon Brown also added 12 points.
With this win UNLV gained revenge against the Utes who somehow swept the two game series this season. The Rebels are pretty much a lock to make the NCAA tournament and their semi final game against BYU will be intense since the two schools have a heated history in tournament games over the past few years.
Yet another game that saw the higher seed struggle early on this game. At the half TCU was able to lead the Cougars and keep that lead through five minutes of the second half. Then BYU's Jimmer Fredette took over and scored 30 of his 45 points in the second half. This was BYU's 29th win on the year which broke a school record that stood for 60 years.
Two Mountain West records were set today by Jimmer Fredette which were for most points in a tournament game with his 45, the previous record was set in 2002 by Utah's Lou Kelly who had 30 points. The other record was for free throw percentage where Fredette went 23 for 24 while crushing the previous record held by Ricky Morgan who made 18 of 19 in 2005.
TCU's head coach Jim Christian had no answer to stop Fredette in the second half:
"Obviously, in the second half Jimmer took over the game. He's a great player. It's difficult because we tried everything we could do. You trap him, the other guys, they hit so many timely shots as a team. It's hard to take out one guy, especially when he can pass the ball and the other guys can play."
The only other player to score in double figures for BYU was Jackson Emery who ended up with 15 points and seven boards. TCU's performance was much better then their 30 point loss in the season finale last week, and they ended up having five players score in double figures. They were just unable to keep up with Jimmer Fredette.
The win for BYU puts them in the semifinals against UNLV.
The Mountain West tournament got off to a good start and if you were one of the many unproductive people able to watch the New Mexico and San Diego State games then you were one of the lucky ones. The Aztecs kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive with a 72-71 win over Colorado State. D.J. Gay made two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Aztecs the one point lead that would stand for the rest of the game. This game was tight the whole way as the largest lead was ten by San Diego State and seven by Colorado State.
San Diego State is the more athletic team but they were settling for three point shots -- where they went one of ten -- instead of driving to the basketball to get to the line. When San Diego State did attack the hoop that is when they had their most success as they were 17-28.
The game had three big plays that changed the outcome. The first was the ejection of Colorado States best player in Andy Ogide after an offensive foul. The second was a Billy White basket as the shot clock expired with 2:47 left in the game when DJ Gay threw it up to White who made a great catch and shoot to give the Aztecs a four point lead. The last big play was a Dorian Green turnover with 6.7 seconds who had a chance to win the game with the Rams down one.
This win by the Aztecs put them closer to assuring themselves an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament team,but a win over top seeded New Mexico will make the Aztecs a lock.
New Mexico was just trying to doing their best to copy the Big East with an early exit as a favorite in today's first quarterfinal in the Mountain West tournament. The Lobos were in a tussle the entire game against an Air Force team that had only 10 wins coming into the game. Air Force never lead by more then a point and that was very early in the game, but anytime when the Lobos seemed to put the game out of the reach the Falcons would get back within a few points.
Good thing conference player of the year Darrington Hobson and Dairese Gary showed up today, because these were the only two players to score in double digits. Hobbson lead all scorers with 28 points and 15 rebounds, while Gary ended up with 20 points for the Lobos.
There is something to be said about the Falcons three point defense as they held Wyoming to 2 of 18 in yesterdays win, and today they held the Lobos to a putrid 6 of 21 from three point range. The Lobos made up in their lack of three point shooting by 25 for 30 from the free throw line while the Falcons were 8 of 12, and that is the reason New Mexico won.
The Lobos seem to play down to their competition as they ended the season with close wins over the bottom of the Mountain West, and if they have a performance like this tomorrow the Lobos will be headed for an early exit.
This is the second year in a row that Air Force will advance out of the play-in game, and only their second Mountain West tournament win in school history. Coming into this game the Falcons were riding a nine game losing streak and it happens that their last win came against Wyoming.
Senior Grant Parker led the Falcons with 15 points on ten shots as Air Force used their traditional slow down style of play to limit the possessions. The Falcons played great team ball with 15 assists to just 9 turnovers, and then defensively they held Wyoming to 2 of 18 shooting from behind the arc. Air Force used a 9-0 run in the first half to get some breathing room and then a 12-0 run at the end of the game which sealed their victory. This game was never really in question for Air Force as they lead nearly the entire game.
Desmar Jackson had the game high with 18 points and was the loan bright spot for the Pokes. In addition to their poor three point shooting Wyoming was only 9 of 18 from the line. The Cowboys were never able to close the gap after making it a seven point game with 5:28 remaining. Wyoming was all ready missing players to injury but then also had to play without captain JayDee Luster who was out due to a groin injury as Wyoming went with a seven man rotation.
Air Force takes on top seed New Mexico tomorrow at 3pm eastern and will be televised by The Mountain West Sports Network and will be shown in glorious high definition which is a big deal since the channel has been lacking high-def coverage during the regular season.
This year has been the best for the Mountain West conference in their short 11 year existence. The league is pretty much guaranteed three spots to the Big Dance, but a fourth is not out of the question. The top teams this year were BYU, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV with everyone else far behind. BYU, New Mexico, and UNLV have all spent time in the top 25 with San Diego State occasionally receiving votes.
New Mexico and BYU have been the most consistent out of the contenders with each boasting two separate ten game winning streaks this season. UNLV and San Diego State have been no slouches but have lost a few head scratches. Such as UNLV getting sweep by Utah -- who just happen to be their first found opponent -- and San Diego State losing to Wyoming.
The tournament is in Las Vegas and played on the home court of UNLV and that automatically makes them top contender. The Rebels have been the best tournament team in MWC history with six finals appearances and three titles. It just so happens that all three of their titles and five of six finals appearances have been on their home court.
For the first time ever the Mountain West has the opportunity to land four teams in the Big Dance. A statement that the conference has not just arrived as a football conference, but also as a top notch basketball conference. New Mexico, BYU and UNLV are locks to get in, with San Diego State in on most tournament projections, but are still in that bubble territory. If a team other than BYU, New Mexico or UNLV wins the tournament, there is a strong chance that the MWC will have four teams in the NCAA tournament.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU: The hot shooting guard can take over any game by taking opponents of the dribble with his quickness or using his deep range shoot where he happens to shoot 47 percent from behind the arc. He has made coaches all year pick their poison on defense with a zone or man to man. The only thing to slow down Fredette this year was illness, he has suffered mono and most recently recovered from a stomach virus.
Jonathan Tavernari, BYU: The Brazilian power forward is their sixth man that can provide a big spark for the Cougars. Tavernari is a good player but is hit or miss player all season where he has split the amount of double digit scoring games as single scoring games. His biggest asset is his energy that he brings to the team, but while he is the sixth man he plays starter minutes with no little or no let down when he is in the game.
Darington Hobson, New Mexico: An all around stud who scores 16 a game, averages nearly ten boards a game, and just under five assists. Hobson is the man for the Lobos and shows up every game and even more so for the big games. His rebounding asset to the team is just as big as his scoring and leads the Lobos who are a top 40 rebounding team. Hobson also was named conference player of the year.
Roman Martinez, New Mexico: The loan senior on the team plays step for step with is teammate Hobson as he is second behind him in scoring and rebounding. Martinez is a key deep threat for the Lobos and shoots 42 percent from three point range. Martinez is a defensive presence as well with almost two steals per game and typically defends the opposing teams best player.
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State: He leads the entire Mountain West Conference in rebounding at as a freshman at 9.6 boards per and is especially good at offensive boards, which gives the Aztecs extra shots. Leonard also leads the team in scoring at 12.6 points, and should be up for Freshman of the year.
DJ Gay, San Diego State: The Aztecs lack a true threat from beyond the arc, but if DJ can turn it on and knock down some threes, SDSU will be hard to beat. He also needs to dish out the ball to get others involved and limit the turnovers.
Oscar Bellfield, UNLV: The easy way out is to point out guard Tre'Von Willis and forward Chace Stanback, the two leaders of the team. However, lets dig a little deeper and point to two players that could truly dictate how far this team advances in March. Oscar Bellfied is a sophomore point guard led the Mountain West in assist/turnover ratio, while putting up just under 10 points a game. UNLV has struggled when they've allowed other teams to get overly physical with them, thus disrupting their offense. If the Rebels are going to stay in their normal rhythm, Bellfield will need to keep the offense flowing.
Derrick Jasper, UNLV: The Rebels were rolling along fairly smoothly when Derrick Jasper inuried his MCL on a knee that already had micro-fracture surgery. The junior guard hasn't played since January and the Rebels will need to work him back into a rotation that has played fairly well over the last two weeks. Jasper doesn't lead the team in any particular category, but he is a do-everything guy who handles much of the grunt-work. If he can bounce back from the knee injury, the Rebels could go far.
New Mexico: Steve Alford has done a great job to guide the Lobos to a top ten regular season finish with a 28-3 record. The Lobos have played a very tough schedule and are 7-0 against teams that were ranked in the top 25 as well going 6-2 against the RPI top 50. Their three losses came during the only rough stretch for the Lobos which came against Oral Roberts, San Diego State, and UNLV. The Lobos have been good but they do tend to play to the level of competition and there have been many times they have been struggling against really bad teams for at least a half. Advantages that the Lobos have are their rebounding which allows them second and third chance shots plus they have the ability to score a lot of points with an uptempo style of play. If a team is able to limit the possessions and keep the score to a lower pace then the Lobos could be in trouble.
BYU: The Cougars arguably have the best player in the league with Jimmer Fredette who is a scoring beast, and had he been healthy for the most recent game against New Mexico they would have been conference champs. BYU is a deep team that has multiple secondary scorers to assist Fredette. Role players that should step up for BYU are Jonathan Tavernari, freshman Tyler Haws, and Jackson Emery. Emery second on the team in scoring and a lock down defensive specialist. One other thing that could propel them to the title is the emergence of Michael Lloyd Jr. who stepped up in scoring when Jimmer Fredette was out with his stomach virus.
San Diego State: The Aztecs can win the tournament because of their three very athletic forwards in Malcolm Thomas, Billy White, and Kawhi Leonard. Those three make San Diego State the best rebounding team in the Mountain West plus they can rack up a lot of blocks. They can get the ball inside and score in the paint at will which is an advantage the Aztecs must use. DJ Gay has come on strong down the stretch with the three ball and the team has improved from the charity stripe down the stretch. The Aztecs have beaten Colorado State six straight times and match-up well with likely semi-final opponent New Mexico having beaten them once already this season by double digits, giving them the needed confidence to reach the finals.
UNLV: The Rebels have to be one of the favorites to win the Mountain West tournament for two reasons: they're a solid basketball team, and the game is being played on their home court. They split against the other top three teams in the conference, with all three wins coming by double digits. UNLV has a lot of depth on their roster, rolling 11 deep when healthy. If they can avoid getting bullied around, UNLV has as good a chance as anybody to win this tournament, but they have struggled when the other team gets physical inside and forces the Rebels out of their normal rhythm. If they can turn the game into a track meet they'll likely win the whole tourney. Coincidentally enough, the Rebels get to face the one conference opponent they didn't beat this year, the six seed Runnin' Utes of Utah, in the first round of the tournament.
Expect the favorites to advance to the semis which is where there will be some good hoops action taking place. There have been only two teams fifth or below to beat a top four team, so do not expect any lower seed to advance. The expected matchup of BYU vs. UNLV in round two will be intense since neither school likes each other and there is a history between the teams when they play in the conference tournament. Also, UNLV has all ready beaten the Cougars in Vegas once this season. The Rebels should be cautious since they do play the Utes who swept the Rebels, but do not expect a third loss to the Utes by UNLV.
If New Mexico gets to go against San Diego State in the semis that game will be intense. The last time the two played it went in overtime with the Lobos pulling it out by two. The Aztecs go a bit deeper in their rotation, but lack the player who can really take over a game, where as the Lobos have that type of player in Darrington Hobson
Predicting who will win or even advance to the finals is very difficult since each of the top four have a legit shot to win this thing. San Diego State is the weakest of the three, because they have had some questionable losses. UNLV has the home court and has a 13-3 record, BYU has beaten the other three favorites, and New Mexico is riding a 13 game winning streak.
The outcome of the tournament will come between UNLV against New Mexico with the Lobos taking the regular and post season crown. The home court will be huge for the Rebels, but New Mexico has been the most consistent team and they play well in big games.
Opening Round Wednesday March 10th
Quarterfinals Thursday Thursday March 11th
Semifinals Friday March 12th
Championship Saturday March 13th
#4 San Diego State vs. #3 UNLV 7PM ET (Versus)
For more about the MWC check out Mountain West Connection
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