San Diego State will head to the Mountain West Tournament championship game for the fourth year in a row, after beating Nevada 77-70 Friday.
The No. 19 Aztecs won their 13th straight after Matt Mitchell heated up in the second half, and they shut down two top Nevada scorers, Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge.
The plan, coach Brian Dutcher, was to “let someone else beat us besides those two.”
Mitchell agreed. “We did our job,” the senior forward said. “We followed our game plan to the T.”
For the third straight year, SDSU (22-4) will face Utah State (20-7) for the tournament crown. The second seed dispatched third-seed Colorado State 62-50, in Friday’s late game.
The championship game begins at 3 p.m. Saturday, airing on KFMB. The Aztecs lost the game last year, falling to the Aggies. Utah State also prevailed in their two regular-season matchups with SDSU this year.
Officiating was an issue for both teams, as each side found themselves in foul trouble early, with Aguek Arop committing three, and Nathan Mensah – who would eventually foul out – and Adam Seiko with two each.
Four Wolf Pack players had two each, and with 27 fouls between the teams in the half, Nevada capitalized, making 16 of 19 free throws.
But the Wolf Pack also turned the ball over 12 times, seven times on Aztec steals.
Jordan Schakel led the offense after the Aztecs fell behind early, hitting two three-pointers off steals, first by Trey Pulliam, then by Joshua Tomaic. Schakel followed with a jumper off a Mitchell steal, to put San Diego State ahead and start a 14-2 run.
But Nevada went on a run of its own, to narrow the gap to 20-18, before eventually tying the game at 30, as Warren Washington rose for a dunk off a Cambridge pass.
SDSU reasserted itself, taking a five-point advantage into the break. They also shut down Sherfield, holding him to just six points, which came off free throws, in the half.
The Wolf Pack guard woke up, though, in the second half, as the Aztecs increased their lead to 10. Shakel and Mitchell made threes, and Mitchell added a layup, but Sherfield answered with a jumper and a three of his own.
Nevada though could never cut the deficit to less than six. Though Sherfield brought his point total for the game to 25, most of those shots came from the line. Overall, the Aztecs held Sherfield to 6-of-15 shooting, and Cambridge to 4-of-15.
Mitchell led San Diego State with 24 points, and Schakel scored 15. The guard also hit a personal milestone, scoring his 1,000th point as an Aztec.
Updated 11:55 p.m. March 12, 2021