San Diego State capped a fun final Saturday of the regular season in college basketball with a remarkable rally to steal the Mountain West Conference title from New Mexico.
Coach Steve Fisher used a 1-3-1 zone and relied on senior guard Xavier Thames to lead the way to a 51-48 triumph in the final home game of his career. Thames was the only Aztec to score in double figures, registering 23 points and he celebrated the championship with teammates and hundreds of his fellow students who stormed the court.
Thames' fellow senior Josh Davis grabbed nine rebounds and he and Thames combined to for eight steals, several of which played a big part in the rally.
The Aztecs scored just five points in almost 9 full minutes to start the second half and found themselves trailing by 16. But in the final 11 minutes, 5 seconds, San Diego State outscored the Lobos 26-7 and three of those points from the Lobos came on a meaningless last-second 3-pointer.
Fisher's decision to switch to the 1-3-1 zone, after rarely playing zone defense at any point this season, proved to be a master stroke. It neutralized New Mexico big men Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk. Neither made a field goal during the Aztecs' rally. Bairstow made one free throw for the only points registered by the duo in the final 10 minutes of the game. Bairstow and Kirk had combined to score 22 of the Lobos 26 points in the first half.
Kendall Williams was forced to the bench during part of the Aztecs rally because of foul trouble. He finished with just seven points and three of them came on that last-second 3-pointer.
If these two teams tangle in the Mountain West tournament again next week, no one other than fans of other programs in the league will have a problem with it.
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