Air Force 68 San Diego State 73

Brandon Heath scored 28 points and Marcus Slaughter added 24, helping San Diego State knock off third seed Air Force 73-68 Thursday night in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament.

DENVER (AP) -- San Diego State (11-17) led by as much as 13 in the second half before Air Force (18-12) started whittling away with pressure defense and timely outside shots.

The Falcons cut the lead to 65-62 on Matt McCraw's 3-pointer with 58 seconds left and got a break when Matt Thomas missed two free throws. But Air Force couldn't control the rebound and Jacob Burtschi was hit with a technical foul for arguing the call. Heath then hit two free throws and Slaughter added two more, all but ending Air Force's chances.

San Diego State, which won in the first round for just the second time in six years, will face New Mexico in the semifinals on Friday.

Air Force had another solid regular season after years of ineptitude, finishing with the second-most wins in school history. Unfortunately, for the Falcons it ended with another conference tournament loss -- their 13th in a row.

Air Force managed to reach the NCAA tournament -- its first appearance since 1962 -- after losing to Colorado State in the first round of last year's tournament, but there's not much hope of it happening again with the Falcons' record and weak schedule.

Antoine Hood had 17 points for Air Force, which was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball -- 15 turnovers -- and had a hard time handling Slaughter and Heath.

Slaughter had his way with the smaller Falcons on the inside, hitting 9-of-14 shots and grabbing nine rebounds. Heath slashed and dashed into the lane for a variety of runners, spotted up for jumpers on the wings, adding seven assists and six rebounds to offset seven turnovers.

San Diego State had trouble with Air Force's pick-and-pass offense in the early going, alternating between man defense and an extended zone without much success. The Falcons hit five 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes and went on an 11-4 run to go up 19-11.

But after their early troubles, the Aztecs started to figure out Air Force's motion offense.

Sticking to man and getting out in the passing lanes, San Diego State disrupted Air Force's normally fluid offense to close within 29-27 by halftime. The Aztecs kept it going in the second half, forcing four straight turnovers early to start a 20-8 run that put them up 47-37.


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