Clements leads SDSU to MWC women’s titleBy BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer Saturday, Mar 10, 2012
LAS VEGAS (AP)—Picking up another trophy was nice, as was cutting down one of the nets at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
There’s something even better waiting for the San Diego State Aztecs, who won the Mountain West Conference women’s tournament with a 57-43 victory over New Mexico on Saturday.
“We have the grandest prize in March—to play next week,” said Beth Burns, the MWC Coach of the Year. “We couldn’t be more excited.
“I think we may have skipped a step, if you will,” Burns added. “I knew we had a talented young group. But the key was young, and our inside game beyond Kalena Tutt was such a question mark. We just weren’t really sure how fast everything would get put together. I think it’s a tribute to the older players on our team, the commitment they made, and the younger players on our team listening to the older players because they did I guess what you’re supposed to do, which is get better and better and better as the season went on.”
Courtney Clements, the MWC Player of the Year, scored 16 points and top-seeded San Diego State warmed up after a slow start to beat the seventh-seeded Lobos.
Chelsea Hopkins added 12 points for the Aztecs (25-6), who advanced to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years and the ninth time in program history.
It’s their second conference tourney title in three years. Burns was asked about some projections that have the Aztecs as a 14th seed.
“The key phrase is they have us as `a seed,’ ” she said. “You see San Diego State. That’s the first step. Early on, I thought for us to do what we did this year would be skipping a step, but I also knew it was a transitional year in the conference. We had some people leaving, we had some people coming in. Most importantly we all had a ton of seniors a year ago.
“So it was more kind of a, Why not us? We’re all going to do bone-head things, we all can maybe do some good things. We knew the kind of recruiting class we had brought in to be able to do that.”
The Aztecs missed their first eight shots from the field before Clements hit a jumper. The Aztecs missed 12 of their first 15 shots but were leading 10-2. They had outrebounded the Lobos 16-3 at that point.
Lauren Taylor scored 14 and Porche Torrance had 12 for the Lobos (11-20), who were the lowest-seeded team to reach the tournament championship game in the league’s 13 seasons.
SDSU has beaten New Mexico eight times in 10 games, including twice in the regular season, when the Aztecs won the league title with a 12-2 record.
SDSU earned the top seed for the first time. The Aztecs ran out to a 19-4 lead on a jumper by Clements, the MWC Player of the Year, with 7:06 left in the first half before the Lobos scored the next six points to climb back into it.
The Lobos kept it close before SDSU used its superior size and athleticism to pull away. Hopkins was named tourney MVP.
“I think the start we had was really critical in how the game played out,” she said. “We came out really confident, really strong. We kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit. For the most part since we were in the lead, if the game were to end, we were to win. I felt like we had a little bit of a cushion and that led to us refocusing in the second half and coming out even stronger.
“But for the most part, we had the lead. I felt like we had control most of the game. They made a great run and they did rally, but at the same time we were able to answer it and maintain the lead and get the win.”
San Diego State outrebounded the Lobos 45-29, with Malia Nahinu getting eight. Both teams shot poorly.
SDSU made only 19 of 54 shots for 35.2 percent and 3 of 17 3-pointers, 17.6 percent. New Mexico shot 28.9 percent, (13 of 45) while making only 2 of 14 from behind the arc (14.3).