Las Vegas, NV – The No. 1-seeded Boise State Broncos and No. 3-seeded San Diego State Aztecs met in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament this afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. Boise State made it to the finals with wins over Nevada (71-69) and Wyoming (68-61). The Aztecs got to the championship game with victories over Fresno State (53-46) and Colorado State (63-58). The teams met twice during the regular season with the Broncos winning both times in defensive contests by scores of 42-37 and 58-57.
Tonight’s game ended similarly with the Broncos (27-7) pulling out an exciting 53-52 win over the Aztecs (23-8) as San Diego State’s Trey Pulliam missed a runner in the lane as time expired. On the same possession the Aztecs’ Matt Bradley missed a 10-foot jumper but grabbed the rebound setting up Pulliam’s shot. Tyson Degenhart led the Broncos with 13 points, hitting 3-of-5 from deep and scoring the last two points that made the difference in the win. Bradley led San Diego State with 17 points, but on 6-of-17 shooting. Lamont Butler was the most effective Aztec, with 16 points on 5-of-6 from the field while hitting on all of his three attempts from distance.
The game started with much more success on the offensive end with Boise State connecting on their first three attempts from distance and taking an 11-9 lead at the first media timeout. From there both defenses picked up and the rest of the half was grinding on the offensive end. Boise State ended the half making only one of their last eight shots and missing their last four. San Diego State missed their last ten shots and only connected on two of their last seventeen. Boise State led at halftime 28-25 as Emmanuel Akot led the way with ten points and five rebounds. The Broncos were hurt as starting center Mladen Armus picked up three fouls in only seven minutes of play. Starting forward Degenhart helped Boise State out with nine points on three made three-pointers.
San Diego State came out strong at the start of the second half, scoring eight of the first ten points and taking a 33-30 lead on a three-pointer from Bradley. The Broncos came back and went on a 6-0 run highlighted by two Armus putbacks to take a 40-35 lead. The Aztecs got their fans going with a steal and lay-in from Pulliam to tie the score at 40, then went ahead 43-40 on a Butler three-pointer. Then the Broncos Marcus Shaver Jr. tied it with a three of his own. The Broncos went up 51-47 when Armus scored on a nice feed from Kijab, was fouled and made the free throw. Another Butler three cut the Broncos lead to one point. Degenhart put the Broncos up 53-50 on a hookshot and Bradley countered with a jumper to cut the deficit to one and set the stage for the exciting conclusion.
Boise State gets the automatic NCAA Tournament bid as the result of the win but San Diego State will end up getting an at-large bid. They came into the game as the No. 24 team in the country according to the NCAA’s Net ratings and appear t be a lock for a tournament bid.