In March, style points don’t matter. It’s all about winning and moving on. San Diego State and Boise State both took that to heart Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
Both teams combined for 31 turnovers. Together, the teams shot 39 percent from the field. And to many of the experts, the loser might not hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
But someone had to win and advance to the Mountain West Tournament semifinals, and that team was the Aztecs. SDSU won an ugly game, 73-67, and will play in its sixth straight tournament semifinal.
San Diego State will play No. 1-seed New Mexico on Friday night.
And thankfully for the Aztecs, they will have a day off between Wednesday nights win and Friday’s semifinal.
The game should not have been as close as it ended. San Diego State had a 12-point lead, 42-30, with 15:30 left in the game after a Chase Tapley three-pointer.
But then Boise State went on a 20-7 run over the next seven minutes to take a 50-49 lead and put pressure on the Aztecs. It was not so much the Broncos offensive prowess that led them to that short lead. It was more that SDSU did not seem like it wanted to win the game.
In that seven-minute span, the Aztecs had six turnovers and went 2-for-6 from the field.
A pair for Jamaal Franklin free throws ended that 20-7 run and gave San Diego State the lead for the rest of the game.
The Broncos, however, hung around, keeping the game within four points until a Winston Shepard layup and foul from a Franklin bullet pass. After the conventional three-point play, SDSU led 63-57 with 58 seconds left, effectively ending any hopes Boise State had in catching the Aztecs.
San Diego State won the game because of its defensive effort. The Aztecs held the highest scoring duo in the Mountain West—guards Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic—to a combined 34 points (Drmic had 20, Marks had 14), though it came on 11-for-42 combined shooting from the field. In fact, Marks did not score his first point until he sunk a pair of free throws with 12:09 left in the second half. This came after Marks and Drmic combined for 50 points in Boise State's win over the Aztecs last Saturday.
In contrast, SDSU had three players in double figures. Franklin led the way with 19 (including nine made free throws) to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. Point guard Xavier Thames had 18 points. Tapley added 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.