Lobos get vital win against Boise State in Mountain West Tournament

Mar. 15—Must win?

No problem.

Needing one more big win to all but assure itself of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the New Mexico men's basketball team got it with a 76-66 win over Boise State in Thursday night's quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

It helped to have throngs of fans make the trip from back home to take over the Thomas & Mack Center, a venue colloquially known as "The Pit West" whenever the Lobos make a strong run in the tournament.

UNM (24-9) advances to Friday night's semifinals against Colorado State. The teams entered the tournament as the 6 and 7 seeds, respectively, but each won twice in the first two days of the four-day event.

San Diego State and Utah State will meet in the other semifinal. Each needed overtime to win their quarterfinal games earlier in the day.

Donovan Dent scored UNM's first seven points and the Lobos trailed for only 31 seconds all night, getting a Jemarl Baker Jr. 3-pointer to erase Boise State's only lead at the 14:29 mark of the half. Baker hit a trio of 3-balls in the half, but it was the play of Dent and Jaelen House that kept things going for UNM.

House erupted for 29 points and nearly engaged in a fight with Boise State guard Roddie Anderson with 16 seconds left. Anderson was called for a flagrant foul on a House dunk attempt as UNM was sealing the game.

The two fell hard to the floor and had to be separated by teammates and officials. Cooler heads prevailed and House came back to hit two free throws to ice it and send the Lobos fans into a frenzy.

It was easily one of House's best games of the later part of the season. He and Dent continuously attacked the Broncos' defense with drives to the basket, often breaking their three-quarter court press with ease.

Dent finished with 22 points and four assists.

The Lobos led by as many as 12 in the second half, opening a 62-50 lead down the stretch.

Neither of UNM's bigs did much damage in the scoring category, but Nelly Junior Joseph and JT Toppin combined for six points and 20 rebounds against Boise State's bigger lineup led by forward Tyson Degenhart. The 6-foot-8 Australian led the Broncos with 23 points.

Boise State got as close as 68-64 in the final two minutes, but free throws by Dent and a costly turnover by Degenhart kept the Lobos in front the rest of the way.

Three of the four teams who won Thursday were lower seeds. Overall, lower seeds have won four of the seven games this week.

Seven teams entered the week with a realistic chance of winning the tournament. Of those, Nevada and UNLV were sent packing earlier Thursday while Colorado State's loss leaves the conference with a solid chance of landing half a dozen teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Pairings will be announced Sunday afternoon.

No. 5 San Diego State 74, No. 4 UNLV 71 (OT)

Jaedon LeDee knocked down a jumper with 14 seconds left in overtime to give the Aztecs the lead, then added two free throws to set the final margin.

LeDee scored 34 points, seven in the overtime, and added 16 rebounds for SDSU (23-9), which has now won 17 straight opening-round games in the Mountain West Tournament. Lamont Butler scored 12 points and Darrion Trammell 11.

The Rebels (19-12) were led in scoring by Dedan Thomas Jr., who had a career-high 29 points and five assists. UNLV also got 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks from Keylan Boone. The loss snapped the Rebels' five-game winning streak.

No. 1 Utah State 87, No. 9 Fresno State 75 (OT)

Great Osobor had 29 points and 17 rebounds as the 18th-ranked Aggies avoided the upset to reach Friday's semifinals.

Darius Brown added 17 points and 11 assists while Javon Jackson scored 16 points. Utah State will face San Diego State in the semifinals.

For Fresno State, it was Justin Hutson's final game as head coach. The 52-year-old announced he was stepping down during his postgame press conference.

No. 7 Colorado State 85, No. 2 Nevada 78

Jalen Lake scored 16 points, Isaiah Stevens added 15 and the Rams (24-9) beat the 23rd-ranked Wolf Pack (26-7).

CSU never trailed after the 17:06 mark of the first half. Nique Clifford had 14 points and nine rebounds and Joe Palmer added 12 points.

Jared Lucas led the Wolf Pack with 18 points. Kenan Blackshear added 16 points and Tylan Pope scored 10.

"We beat them twice this year," said Lucas, who hit a half-court shot to beat the Rams 77-74 on

Feb. 27. "We knew they would come out and give us their best shot."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.