San Diego State made short work of San Jose State Friday, moving on to the title game of the Mountain West tournament after their 64-49 semi-final win.
No. 20 SDSU (26-6) will play in the championship game for the sixth straight year, taking on the winner of the late game between Boise State and Utah State.
A five-seed, San Jose State (20-13) had improved markedly since San Diego State beat them by 21 in January. But that didn’t show Friday.
The top-seeded Aztecs enjoyed their first run, 7-0, while the Spartans endured a scoring drought of almost five minutes. Matt Bradley started the run with a three-pointer, followed by a second-chance layup by Aguek Arop and a jumper by Micah Parrish for a 14-8 lead.
Though San Diego State stalled at times, shooting as low as 28% at one point in the half, they picked it up to go on another run, 9-0, capped by a Keshad Johnson jumper for their first double-digit lead of the day, 23-12. After his shot, Johnson raised his arms, drawing cheers from the heavily pro-San Diego crowd in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, the defense stymied San Jose State, holding them to 7-for-27 shooting – 26% for the half.
The Aztecs’ early dominance was perhaps best exemplified as they ended the half with a three by Darrion Trammell. Then, with four seconds on the clock, Alvaro Cardenas couldn’t find an open man and the Spartans never made it back up court to attempt one last shot before the break.
SDSU took a 33-20 lead to the locker room and little changed upon their return. Lamont Butler, with no points in the opening half, soon made himself heard in the second on a fast break, with a layup while drawing the foul. He completed the three-point play for a 38-22 lead.
The Spartans, nearing the six-minute mark, almost drew within 10 of SDSU, on a Tibet Gorener layup. But Johnson answered with a quick three, and the Aztec advantage jumped back to 56-42. It soon ballooned to 20, on Johnson’s layup with two minutes to play.
San Diego State held Omari Moore, the conference Player of the Year – who scored a quarter of San Jose State’s points this season – to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Johnson and Trammell led SDSU with 15 points each. Nathan Mensah added eight rebounds and two blocks.
“We’re dangerous,” head coach Brian Dutcher told CBS Sports Network. “You never know who it’s gonna be on a given night. I like that kind of depth.”
Trammell, with no points in the Aztecs’ quarterfinal win over Colorado State, told San Diego Sports 760 that it “definitely felt good” to open the scoring for SDSU Friday. He added though, that he is also proud of his development as part of the team’s vaunted defense.
“I got the hang of it now, it came at the right time,” he said.
The MW championship game starts at 3 p.m. Saturday and will air on KFMB. The Aztecs swept two against No. 3 seed Utah State this season and went 1-1 against No. 2 seed Boise State, including a difficult road loss on Feb. 28.