UNM shoots past SDSU 60-50 in MWC Semifinals

The top-seeded New Mexico Lobos will play in a second consecutive Mountain West Tournament championship game after defeating San Diego St. Aztecs 60-50 Saturday night in the MWC semifinals before a sold out – and pro-UNM crowd – in Las Vegas, Nev. The Lobos, ranked 14th in the Coaches poll plays UNLV in the title game at 4 p.m. MT Saturday . The game will be televised nationally on CBS-TV.

The Lobos led 29-20 at halftime then surged ahead on the strength of a 14-2 run that climaxed when Tony Snell hit three three-pointers in a row to give the Lobos a 43-22 lead with 16:16 left in the game.

"I was trying to be aggressive," said Snell, who scored a game-high 17 points on 5-8 shooting from 3-point range. "I heard the crowd going, so that got me going. (They) kind of backed off me, so I tried to shoot the ball and be aggressive."

The Lobos got a double-double from  Cameron Bairstow, who scored 16 and pulled down 11 rebounds while Alex Kirk added 15 points and seven rebounds. By contrast the San Diego State bigs, J.J. O'Brien, Winston Shepard and Deshawn Stephens were held to zero and four points respectively seven points collectively on 3 of 15 shooting and seven rebounds between the three of them. O'Brien was particularly ineffective, scoring no points and getting no rebounds while shooting 0 of 6 from the field.

"We kind of talked about kind of going at them," said Kirk. "I'm not going to say they're undersized, but they're definitely smaller than us in height and weight. It opened up a lot of things. Cam attacked them right way, we kind of got rolling the rest of the way."

Cam Bairstow was important early as New Mexico (28-5) built a nine point lead in the first half and took it to halftime, leading the Aztecs 29-20.

UNM managed to take a tight game and blow it open in the final six minutes, outscoring SDSU10-2 the rest of the half to take a commanding lead.

The roll continued to begin the half and the Lobos would outscore the Aztecs 24-4 in a ten minute stretch spanning almost 10 minutes.

San Diego St. would cut the Lobo lead down to nine at 55-46 with a Chase Tapley jumper at the 4:38 mark of the second half. But the Aztecs would get no closer as UNM closed out effectively.

UNM managed to hold the Aztecs to just 26% shooting (8 of 30) in the first half and 31% shooting (20 of 64) overall. San Diego St. (22-10) was especially poor shooting the 3-pointer, going just 5 of 21 for the game.

The Lobos by contrast shot 48% in the crucial second half, hitting 12 of 25 shots. UNM only shot 7 of 19 on 3-pointers, but the trey came at critical times. New Mexico also made 11 of 16 free throws and out rebounded SDSU 41-33 and outscored the Aztecs 16-9 on second chance points.

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