Colorado St. 69, San Diego St. 64
LAS VEGAS (AP)—Colorado State is hoping that being the sixth-seed will be the charm again in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
In 2003, the then sixth-seeded Rams came to Las Vegas and won three games to capture the tourney title and earn the automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. After Thursday’s quarterfinal game San Diego State, the once-again No. 6 Rams are one-third of the way there.
Stuart Creason scored 19 points along with seven rebounds to lead Colorado State to an upset win over San Diego State, 69-64.
“I found a zone,” said Creason, who played with four fouls in the final 11:21. “I was getting deep positioning. I wasn’t thinking about the fouls. I didn’t want to see our seniors go.”
Also for sixth-seeded Colorado State (17-12), Jason Smith had 13 points and 13 rebounds. He also played with four fouls in the final 10:15.
The Rams were swept by the Aztecs in the regular-season series. But Colorado State now plays No. 2 UNLV Friday night in the semifinals.
The Rams lost to UNLV, 65-47, last Saturday on the same court.
“They are awfully good,” Colorado State coach Dale Layer said of second-seeded UNLV. “We have to handle their pressure. The Rebels are going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Brandon Heath led the No. 3 Aztecs (21-10) with 20 points. Jerome Habel and Mohamed Abukar each had 14 points apiece for San Diego State, which now awaits word if it will receive an NCAA Tournament bid Sunday. Before Thursday, the Aztecs had won eight of their last 10 and had an RPI of 55.
“Obviously not the way we wanted to play in the Mountain West Conference Tournament,” said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who did not comment on making a case for his team to get a bid. “Credit goes to Colorado State. We’re very disappointed we’re not playing tomorrow. We were not able to do what we wanted to do.”
San Diego State was out-rebounded 36-25, and 24-16 on the offensive glass. Colorado State led throughout the first half, once building its largest lead, 26-16, with 6:04 until halftime.
The Aztecs went on a 14-5 run to cut the advantage, 31-30, at intermission. Abukar had 10 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting. The Aztecs took their first lead at 35-34 with just over two minutes into the second half.
After a brief Rams’ lead and two ties, San Diego State took the lead on a Heath 3-pointer with 12:24 left in the game. That started a 7-0 run, which gave the Aztecs their largest lead, 47-40 with 11:02 left.
“Our guys were able to weather the storm,” Layer said. “The Aztecs are a team of runs. In the second half, we had eight post feeds in nine minutes. We had to get it in there and Stuart had a hot hand.”
Colorado State then went on a 9-2 run to tie it. After four more ties from that point, Tyler Smith’s jumper put the Rams up for good with 1:57 left, 64-62.
From the field, the Rams were 27-of-53 for 51 percent, while the Aztecs were 25-of-56 (45 percent). The Aztecs took a season-high 24 3-point shots, but only made seven for 29 percent.