Fresno beat San Diego State, 68-63, to win the Mountain West tournament and get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday evening. It was the perfect capper for a dream season that had Fresno State exceeding expectations all year en route to its best season since 2003. It's the Bulldogs' first Mountain West title and it will be their first time in the Big Dance since 2001.
The Aztecs beat No. 5 Nevada to get to the finals and were considered the favorite to win the title. To finish the job they had to go against a scrappy Bulldogs squad that played with a sense of urgency, knowing that it was their only shot at making the NCAA tournament.
Three-point shooting kept Fresno State in it, with Marvelle Harris sinking four of his nine attempts and the team finishing 10-for-24 from deep. Every single one was needed to keep one of the best defenses in college basketball on its toes. The Aztecs, meanwhile, pounded Fresno State in the offensive glass and made life hell for their opponent in the half court, using their superior depth to put pressure on the Bulldogs. It was hard for either team to get an edge.
The Aztecs created some separation midway through the second half but the Bulldogs went on a 11-2 run to erase the deficit and get the momentum on their side. When things didn't seem to be going the Aztecs' way, Malik Pope took over and with highlight plays, he revived his squad.
Ultimately, it wouldn't be enough. The teams traded buckets from then on and the game went down to the wire. A three-pointer by Julien Lewis with 1:39 to go put the Bulldogs up two points. The Aztecs had the chance to tie it with 28 second to go on a pair of Dakarai Allen but he missed the second one, forcing San Diego State to foul Lewis, who hit both.
The Aztecs had yet another chance to tie but couldn't get a clean look. Karachi Edo got a block, Lewis was fouled and he sealed the victory from the free throw line.
San Diego State will now have to wait for Selection Sunday to see if it will make the tournament, while the Bulldogs have punched their ticket with the win.
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