The San Diego State men’s basketball team proved to be No. 22 Nevada’s kryptonite once again. The fifth-seeded Aztecs defeated the No. 1 seed Wolf Pack in a 90-73 blowout Friday in the Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship semifinals in Las Vegas.
Six days ago, SDSU (21-10) beat Nevada (27-7) in a close game. This time, the game wasn’t even close. Except for a brief 42 seconds at the start of the first half, SDSU never trailed in the game. The Aztecs scored 55 points in the first half in the first half alone, the most by a team in MW tournament history. At one point, SDSU led by as much as 33 points.
“Just real happy to have found a way to beat a really good Nevada team,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “They’re an NCAA tournament team, there’s no question about it.”
With the Wolf Pack finishing first in the MW in the regular season, Nevada has almost assured an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
With the win, SDSU will battle for its 11th championship title against New Mexico on Saturday. This is the fourth time in five seasons that the Aztecs have been in the title game and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. If the Aztecs win the championship, the MW could have two teams in the NCAA tournament.
The last time SDSU won the MW title was in 2011, so the team is frothing at the mouth to capture the title this time around.
“I’m itching right now we want it so bad,” said Devin Watson, who led the Aztecs in scoring at 20 points. “(We’re) tired of losing. We knew our potential. We knew how good we could be, we just wanted to prove it to ourselves and to everybody.”
Aztecs freshmen have made a significant contribution to the team this season. That’s something Jalen McDaniels, who recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, said isn’t surprising.
“We’ve been playing basketball for a long time. We just want to go out there and compete, play at a high level,” he said. “And I feel like us two, we’ve been doing that. And the freshmen, okay, we’re not freshmen anymore, the season is almost over.”
McDaniels was referring to Matt Mitchell, who reached double-digits scoring for the 20th time this season with 13 points.
“Winning the way that we did, and doing what we did, just playing like a team and really defending hard and getting after it. I feel like we have a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence going into tomorrow’s championship game,” Mitchell said.