New Mexico men move into Mountain West semifinals
UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State also advance
Even ugly performances look beautiful in coach Steve Alford’s eyes as long as long as his Lobos prevail.
Playing Wyoming for the third time this season, the No. 15 New Mexico men survived a 12-minute stretch without a field goal Wednesday to advance in the Mountain West Basketball Championships. The top-seeded Lobos earned that spot in Friday’s semifinals with a 59-46 win over the No. 3 seed Cowboys.
“I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder of what’s pretty and ugly,” Alford said. “In March when you win by 13 points, to me it’s pretty.
UNM (27-5) will square off with San Diego State Friday at 7 p.m. MT.
A team known more for its defensive stopping power than its offensive firepower, UNM shot 40.5 percent for the game. During that 12-minute skid that spanned both halves, the Lobos’ entire offensive output – eight points – came from the foul line.
Over that period, Wyoming cut a 34-24 halftime deficit in half to 42-37.
Forward Cameron Bairstow, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, snapped that skid with a field goal with 9:37 remaining in the contest. Fouled on the play, Bairstow converted a traditional 3-point play to push the lead back to 44-37.
After three free throws by UNM guard Tony Snell and two Wyoming field goals made the score 48-42, the Lobos ended the game with a 11-4 run to seal the victory. Wyoming’s only field goal during that stretch came via a dunk by guard Josh Adams with 5.2 seconds remaining.
The Lobos made just five field goals in 15 second-half attempts, but they 15 of 22 free throws in the latter 20 minutes and finished the game 72.4 percent from the foul line.
“I think we just have faith in each other,” said Bairstow, who played a career-high 37 minutes. “Guys are going to step up, which they have the whole year. Even when we’re not playing well at a particular point, we keep pushing, try to get to the free-throw line, try to get easy scores.”
Tony Snell scored a game-high 15 points, converting four field goals in 11 shots. He did not miss a shot for the first 11:37 of the game, going 4 for 4 from the field with two 3-pointers. Over the last three games, Snell has 61 points and has hit 50 percent of his 3-pointers.
Defensively, UNM kept Wyoming’s top player Leonard Washington in check, forcing the 6-foot-7 forward into foul trouble. He had six points and six rebounds before fouling out in the second half.
The Cowboys (19-13), who like to slow the pace down and utilize the shot clock, were 32 percent from the field, making 16 of 50 shots. They took just 13 free throw attempts for the game.
Forward Larry Nance Jr. and guard Derrious Gilmore paced Wyoming’s scoring with 14 points apiece. Guard Josh Adams chipped in 12. Nance also played significant playing time with four fouls.
UNM center Alex Kirk’s playing time was limited to a career-low 19 minutes due to foul trouble. He had four for the game. Wyoming was whistled for 22 personal fouls while UNM had 14.
Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt declined to comment on the foul disparity.
“The other things I can’t say because my wife would kill me and the commissioner would be pissed, too,” Shyatt said.
UNM beat Wyoming for the third time this season, dropping the Cowboys 63-59 on Jan. 30 and 53-42 March. 2.
Mountain West Basketball Championships Capsules
No. 4 San Diego State 73, No. 5 Boise State 67
With 25 seconds remaining, the San Diego State fans started chanting “We want Lobos.” The Aztecs are going to get the Lobos.
Guards Jamaal Franklin, Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley combined for 54 points, leading SDSU past Boise State in Wednesday’s final MWC quarterfinal game. Franklin led the way with 19 points, Thames scored 18 and Tapley netted 17.
The Aztecs finished the game shooting 46.7 percent from the field, connecting on 10 second-half field goals on 19 attempts. SDSU won although Boise State dominated down low. The Broncos outscored SDSU 32-18 in the paint and 16-3 on second-chance points.
San Diego State built a 33-26 halftime lead behind 11 Franklin points. However, Boise State cut it to as close as three points in the second half by forcing the Aztecs into 11 turnovers. SDSU had 19 turnovers for the game.
Forward Anthony Drmic led Boise State with 20 points, while guard Derrick Marks added 14. The Broncos were 34.9 percent from the field.
No. 3 UNLV 72, No. 6 Air Force 56
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Guard Anthony Bennett scored a game-high 23 points to propel the Runnin’ Rebels past Air Force in the first quarterfinal game.
Bennett hit 10 field goals, twice as many as any other player on the floor, on 14 attempts. Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones added 12 points for UNLV (24-8), while forward Anthony Marshall had 12. Forward Mike Moser missed a double-double by one point, recording nine points and 10 rebounds.
Air Force was without conference scoring leader Michael Lyons for a significant portion of the game. The senior guard who averaged 18.3 points per game in the regular season suffered a right knee injury early in the first half and did not return. Center Taylor Broekhuis missed significant time as well with a head injury.
UNLV went on a 12-0 run over 7:13 in the first half and jumped out to a 21-7 advantage. The Runnin’ Rebels continued to pull away, holding a 33-20 lead at halftime.
They outscored the Falcons 39-36 in the second half.
Playing without two of its top players, Air Force was led in scoring by forward Marek Olesinski and guard Kyle Green. The two bench players each scored 13 points. Guard Cameron Michael chipped in 11.
No. 2 Colorado State 67, No. 7 Fresno State 61
The regular-season runner-up Rams took all they could handle against Fresno State, but 18-9 run late in the second half put Colorado State into the semifinals.
CSU (25-7) had three players in double-digit scoring, led by guard Wes Eikmeier’s 18 points. Starting forward Greg Smith scored 11 and reserve forward Gerson Santo added 10. In 11 minutes on the floor, Santo made four of his six field goal attempts.
Neither team led by more than five points through the first 20 minutes. They exchanged the lead seven times and tied three times, but Fresno State (11-19) took a 29-26 margin into the locker room.
That trend continued into the second half as Fresno State and Colorado State battled to a 37-all tie with 14:27 remaining. CSU’s Wes Eikmeier drained go-ahead jumper moments later.
Colorado State extended its lead to nine points, 55-46, with six minutes on the clock. Fresno State cut it to as close as 62-60 in the final 30 seconds, but the Rams made three of four foul shots and Santo sank a late layup for good measure.
Guard Tyler Johnson was the Bulldogs leading scorer with 14 points, followed by Forward Jerry Brown and guard Marvelle Harris with 12 apiece. Guard Allen Huddleston scored 10.
No. 1 seed New Mexico vs. No. 8 seed Wyoming, 7:30 p.m. MT
No. 4 seed San Diego State vs. No. 5 seed Boise State, 10 p.m. MT
No. 2 Colorado State vs. No. 3 UNLV, 9:30 p.m. MT