Top seed San Diego State, after being challenged by Wyoming from stem to stern Thursday, survived to move on in the Mountain West tournament, winning 69-66.
Matt Mitchell nailed four three throws with less than 10 seconds left, as Wyoming’s quarterfinal magic ran out in the waning seconds.
Marcus Williams missed a three-pointer with eight seconds on the clock, then, trying to miss a free throw to set up a final shot, saw it bounce through the net.
But the remainder of the game Wyoming, the No. 8 seed, controlled the tempo, and forced the No. 19 Aztecs to win with someone other than top scorers Mitchell and Jordan Schakel.
The Cowboys also slowed down the game, eating up the clock and taking – and making – late baskets with only seconds left on the shot clock.
It was a stark contrast to Wyoming’s first-round game, fast and defense-free, as they beat San Jose State, 111-80.
Coach Brian Dutcher acknowledged in a post-game interview that “they put us in a dilemma.”
SDSU, a 14-point favorite, won its 12th straight, though it faced its first second-half deficit since January. They also narrowly avoided being the first No. 1 tournament seed to be bounced early since 2004 when Air Force lost to Colorado State.
With the win, the Aztecs next face fifth-seed Nevada, which beat Boise State, the fourth seed, 89-82 Thursday. Their semi-final game starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
SDSU took two from Nevada at home in January, including a 69-67 win on a buzzer beater off the glass by Trey Pulliam.
On Thursday, San Diego State, with Mitchell and Shackel covered, turned to Pulliam in the first half and Terrell Gomez did in the second.
Pulliam scored 11 of his 15 in the opening half, while Gomez scored 13 of his 20 after the break.
San Diego State narrowly took a lead into the break, 33-32, as Gomez hit a layup, was fouled, and made the free throw.
The Aztecs came out fast in the second half, as Shackel made a three. But the Cowboys kept pace, and took their first lead, 52-49, just past the 10-minute mark, after two three-pointers, first by Xavier Dusell, then by Kenny Foster.
Gomez took it back, with a jumper and a layup, but Williams, as the Cowboys did most of the game, answered with a three, to put his team up 55-53.
The teams continued to go back and forth until, with 90 seconds on the clock, Gomez, fouled by Dusell, hit two free throws. San Diego State did not give up the lead again.
Updated 5:15 p.m. March 11, 2021