LAS VEGAS, Nev. - For the third time in three meetings this season, No. 2 Colorado State rallied from 13 points down and defeated No. 6 San Diego State, this time 71-63, in 2017 Mountain West Championship semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, March 10. Advancing to the MW Championship game for the first time under head coach Larry Eustachy, the Rams improved to 23-10 on the season, while the Aztecs fell to 19-14 overall.
Down eight early in the second half, Colorado State continued to claw back from the deficit and eventually tied it at 52 on a 3-pointer from redshirt-sophomore guard J.D. Paige with 7:11 and took their first lead of the game on a jumper by sophomore Prentiss Nixon with just over six minutes to play. The Aztecs had an immediate answer, but senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo canned a three from the left corner to again give CSU the lead, this time for good. San Diego State trimmed it to one on two SDSU free throws, but back-to-back threes by senior guard Gian Clavell and Paige pushed the Ram lead to seven with just under three minutes to play and it never got closer than five the rest of the way.
San Diego State scored the first five points of the game and opened the contest on a 12-2 run in the first five minutes. The Aztecs built as much as a 13-point lead in the first six minutes before CSU clawed its way back into the game, eventually tying it at 30 with just over two minutes to play in the half. SDSU closed the period on a 6-0 run and led 36-30 at the halftime break.
Colorado State finished the game at 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the field, including 50.0 percent (13-of-26) in the final period. San Diego State was held to 40.7 percent (24-of-59) on its field goal attempts, but were limited to just 33.3 percent (9-of-27) in the second half. The Rams connected on 20-of-25 free throw attempts (80.0 percent), making 11-of-12 in the last 20 minutes. The teams tied on the boards at 32.
Clavell finished with a game-high 21 points, while Omogbo recorded his 19th double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Nixon added 16 as well, along with a season-high tying seven rebounds, and Paige chipped in 11 points. SDSU was led by Malik Pope with 18 points, while Trey Kell had 15.
IN THEIR WORDS...
Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy
(on the game overall)
We'll talk about today's game and give San Diego State all the credit in the world. They came out and forced us to turn it over. We couldn't keep them off the boards. They had the majority of their points in the first half off of our turnovers that they converted or off of offensive rebounds. And then give our guys credit for responding and really doing what they said they were going to do during a timeout about not turning the ball over, keeping them off the boards and it was a terrific effort. And we thought that San Diego would get tired because it was their third game in three days. And these guys bought into what we were telling them and they just stuck with it. It worked out perfect.
Senior guard Gian Clavell
(on coming back from the 13-point deficit)
Anytime we're down by any margin we feel like we can come back and win, that's just any team. But, yeah, we always say, Stay with it, chip away and just one basket at a time.
STAT OF THE GAME...
Colorado State outscored San Diego State 22-11 over the final 7:15 of the game, hitting all eight free throw attempts in the final two minutes
All three games with San Diego State this year, the Rams have trailed by 13 points in the contest and eventually come back to win.
CSU has been in the Mountain West Championship semifinals eight times now and is just 2-6 in those games, with the only win in 2003 when the Rams won the tournament title.
The Rams are now 14-16 all-time in Mountain West tournament history.
This will be the first appearance in the MW Championship since 2003, when the sixth-seeded Rams knocked off UNLV.
Emmanuel Omogbo recorded his 19th double-double of the season, breaking the CSU single-season record of Jason Smith (2006-07).
The Rams will take on top-seeded Nevada on Saturday, March 11 at 4 pm MT on CBS. Nevada won the previous meeting one week ago in Reno that put CSU as the No. 2 seed.
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