Photo credit: @UNMLOBOS
By: Ana Kieu
LAS VEGAS — This year, the San Jose State Spartans were handed a first-round exit for the third year in a row, but most, if not all, Spartan fans and alumnus were understanding of first-year head coach Jean Prioleau’s struggle because who reaches perfection in their debut year?
Anyways, let’s take a look at the semifinals of this year’s Mountain West Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. Both games were broadcast live on CBS Sports Network: No. 1 Nevada Wolf Pack faced the No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs on Friday at 6:00 pm PT, while the No. 7 Utah State Aggies took on the No. 3 New Mexico Lobos at 8:30 pm PT.
No. 1 Nevada vs. No. 5 San Diego State
The Nevada Wolf Pack were seeking revenge against the San Diego State Aztecs and what better way to do it than battling it out on the court in the semifinals of the MW Tournament?
Just five minutes into the opening half, Nevada trailed San Diego State 15-9. Aztecs guard Trey Kell put his defender in the popcorn machine and then found fellow guard Devin Watson for a 3-pointer.
The Aztecs continued to pour in the points in a successful attempt to suppress the Wolf Pack. Watson got his third triple and later stepped in for the jumper. Meanwhile, Kell hit a couple of threes. Wolf Pack forward Jordan Caroline led his team in scoring with seven points, but they continued to trail 34-16 with 7:55 to go in the half.
The Aztecs carried a whopping 55-25 lead over the Wolf Pack at the half. According to Stats by STATS, SDSU led No. 22 Nevada by 30 points, which marked their largest halftime lead by an unranked team against a ranked opponent since the Butler Bulldogs led 43-10 at the half against the No. 23 Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
The Wolf Pack got on the board first in the second half. Wolf Pack guard Kendall Stephens hit a layup just 14 seconds into the half. Yet, Nevada continued to trail SDSU 55-27 and basically succumbed to a large deficit throughout the half.
Aztecs center Kameron Rooks made some notable moves in the paint to help his team to a 70-43 lead with 9:55 to go in the half. Also, Aztecs forward Malik Pope threw down a dunk in a stellar completion of a tremendous play just a little over 40 seconds later.
The Aztecs had this semifinal game from start to finish and advanced to the championship game with a 90-73 win over Nevada.
Final stats: SDSU–FG%: 28-54 (51.9%); 3FG%: 8-23 (34.8%); FT%: 26-34 (76.5%). Nevada–FG%: 27-68 (39.7%); 3FG%: 7-29 (24.1%); FT%: 12-17 (70.6%).
No. 7 Utah State vs. No. 3 New Mexico
The Utah State Aggies upset the Boise State Broncos, but were they able to repeat against the New Mexico Lobos in the semifinals of the MW Tournament?
These two teams went back-and-forth in the opening minutes of the first half. However, New Mexico had the upper hand as they led Utah State by one (9-8) at the 14:16 mark of the half.
These two teams were tied at 12 apiece midway through the half. Then, USU went on a 11-0 run since the 14-minute mark and went ahead of UNM during a span of 4:01. Lobos guard Troy Simons hit a 3-pointer to end the Aggies’ lengthy run.
The Lobos went on a massive 17-0 run and closed out the half with a free throw from forward Sam Logwood. Meanwhile, the Aggies went cold out of the blue. The Lobos led the Aggies 37-25 at the half.
The Aggies continued the cold streak in the second half. The Lobos went on a 6-0 run to start the half.
After Makuach Maluach threw down a dunk, USU snapped out of their pointless streak and went on an 8-0 run that was ended by a jumper from Joe Furstinger at the 11:52 mark.
There was a timeout on the floor and the Lobos led the Aggies by 16 points, 75-59, with 3:56 to go in the half. The Lobos continued to hold onto its lead and guard Antino Jackson added a three with 18 seconds left in regulation.
The Lobos advanced to the championship game, where they will take on the Aztecs.
Final stats: USU–FG%: 24-57 (42.1%); 3FG%: 7-24 (29.2%); FT%: 13-16 (81.3%). UNM–FG%: 28-54 (51.9%); 3FG%: 7-24 (29.2%); FT%: 20-25 (80.0%).
Wolf Pack’s projected lineup: Charlie Todley, John Jones, Elijah Cooks, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Elijah Foster, Hallice Cooke, Lindsey Drew, David Cunningham, Kendall Stephens, Jordan Caroline, Josh Hall and Justin Brent.
Aztecs’ projected lineup: Devin Watson, Adam Seiko, Trey Kell, Michael Sohikish, Jalen McDaniels, Max Montana, Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel, Malik Pope, Nolan Narain, Jeremy Hemsley and Kameron Rooks.
Lobos’ projected lineup: Chris McNeal, Sam Logwood, Antino Jackson, Mike Mondragon, Joe Furstinger, Makuach Maluach, Jachai Simmons, Dane Kuiper, Vladimir Pinchuk, Troy Simons and Anthony Mathis.
Aggies’ projected lineup: DeAngelo Isby, Koby McEwen, Sam Merrill, Crew Ainge, Julion Pearre, Quinn Taylor, Alex Dargenton, Justin Bean, Brock Miller, Daron Henson, Diogo Brito, Dwayne Brown Jr. and Abel Porter.
The Wolf Pack and Lobos will meet for the final of the Mountain West Tournament on Sunday at 3:00 pm PT.