The Mountain West quarterfinals featured the top seeds advancing to the semifinals, and another team joining them that is no stranger to such territory. Here’s how they got there.
(1) Nevada 83, (8) Utah State 69
Nevada sure looked the part of the top seed in their quarterfinal win over Utah State. The Wolf Pack weathered a slow start, and eventually cruised to a double-digit win over the Aggies. They took a 45-28 lead into the locker room, and kept a comfortable lead until the final horn.
Coming into the game, Nevada had scored 80 points or more in four consecutive games, and continued that trend with a balanced offensive attack. Jordan Caroline led the Wolf Pack with 22 points, while Cameron Oliver added a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double in the paint. Marcus Marshall chipped in with 14 to round out the scoring in double-figures.
On the other end, Nevada held an opponent to 50% shooting for their 12th consecutive game. It’s clear that the Wolf Pack have offensive firepower, but when they defend like they did today, that’s when they’re at their most dangerous. For the Aggies, Jalen Moore was able to score 27 points, but he and Koby McEwan were the only ones in double figures for Utah State.
(4) Fresno State 65, (5) New Mexico 60
In a game featuring two evenly matched teams, it’s only fitting that the game went down to the final minutes. In the end, Fresno State prevailed as they advanced to the semifinals on their quest to repeat. Deshon Taylor had a game-high 21 points, and scored some crucial baskets down the stretch to hold of a Lobo rally.
Going into the game, one of the key facets to watch was the battle of the free throw line. New Mexico’s modus operandi is getting to the free throw line as often as any team in the country, and Fresno State is among the best at keeping teams off it. The Lobos attempted 22 free throws, which was a rate slightly below their season average, but only converted on 12 shots from the line. The missed opportunities proved to be costly for New Mexico in the end.
Fresno State lost in nearly every statistical category, but made the winning plays when it mattered most. For that reason, the Bulldogs are rewarded with a matchup against Nevada, a team that they went 2-0 against in the regular season.
(2) Colorado State 81, (10) Air Force 55
As you read this, Gian Clavell just scored another bucket on Air Force. The Colorado State guard poured in 30 points in the Rams blowout win over the Falcons, which was his second straight game of 30 or more. The Rams’ offensive explosion was the highest total since late January when they reached the same mark.
Even though Clavell’s scoring binge will grab the headlines, it was Colorado State’s defense that was instrumental in the blowout. The Rams held Air Force to 38.5% from the floor, and an anemic 4-21 from the three-point line. It didn’t matter that the Rams went 8-27 from downtown, six of which were hit by Clavell, because the Rams had one of their best defensive performances of the season.
The Rams also controlled the glass with a 38-26 margin, and had four different players grab at least six boards. They’ve been one of the best rebounding teams in the conference, and they showed that they can still win big if the perimeter shots aren’t falling. There was no sign of a letdown after dropping the season finale to Nevada, and the Rams appear to be on a collision course with the Wolf Pack in the championship game.
(6) San Diego State 87, (6) Boise State 68
It’s not a secret that the Aztecs aren’t particularly adept at three-point shooting, but that wasn’t the case against Boise State. On the back of a 5-6 performance from Max Hoetzel, the Aztecs went 9-14 from downtown as they ran away from the Broncos.
San Diego State also got a career performance out of Malik Pope as the forward produced a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. His work on the glass played a major part in the Aztecs’ 37-23 dominance on the boards. Valentine Izundu controlled the paint with four blocks, and the Aztecs held Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison to 4-13 from the field. It was one of their best all-around performances, and showed why a team with this much potential can be so dangerous and frustrating at the same time.
As the they advance to the semifinals to face Colorado State, the Aztecs are actually favored by KenPom. It’ll be a classic matchup of offense versus defense, and the Aztecs will be seeking revenge against a team that swept them during the regular season.
(1) Nevada vs (4) Fresno State, 10p.m. ET/7p.m PT, CBS Sports Network
(2) Colorado State vs (6) San Diego State, 12:30a.m. ET/9:30p.m PT, CBS Sports Network