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Aztecs fall in MW Tournament finale 45-43

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Aztecs fall in MW Tournament finale 45-43

by Kristian Ibarra and Matthew Bain

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Oceans of mustard filled the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon to watch the University of Wyoming Cowboys (25-9, 11-7 Mountain West) defeat the second-seeded San Diego State Aztecs (26-8, 14-4 MW) in the MW Tournament Championship 45-43.

For the second year in a row, SDSU leaves Las Vegas as the runner-up in the MW Tournament. Last year it was Cameron Bairstow and the University of New Mexico, this year it was senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and the now-Big-Dance-bound Wyoming Cowboys.

“Disappointment has no boundaries in our world,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said after the game. “Nor does the pure joy that we felt yesterday that Wyoming feels right now.

“We had opportunities. We didn’t take advantage of enough of them.”

The Aztec offense struggled all night long. Senior guard Aqeel Quinn — who scored 21 and 16 points in the quarterfinal and semifinal games, respectively — failed to score a single point in Saturday’s championship.

As a team, SDSU shot 32.6 percent from the field. Ninth in the country in points allowed, Wyoming’s defense did exactly what it needed to do against an offense that never really found its groove throughout the regular season.

“You’re sure not going to win many (games) when you score 43,” Fisher said.

Freshman forward Malik Pope led all Aztec scorers with 13 points. With his first-year status intact, this is the first time he’s tasted the bitter defeat that comes with falling shy of the MW Tournament title.

“It’s just a disappointment,” Pope said as he struggled to find the words after the game.

Wyoming entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed. It started its journey toward the top of the mountain on Thursday, where it knocked off the fifth-seeded Utah State University Aggies. Friday afternoon saw the Cowboys upset the the tournament-favorite Boise State University Broncos.

“We’ve been so close (to the Big Dance) before and seen it slip right through our fingertips…it’s everything we imagined and more,” Nance said after the game.

Though his team was on the bad end of another tournament upset, Fisher managed to find a bit of a silver lining.

“This is a very competitive league, and this tournament showed it,” Fisher said.

In all likelihood, the loss won’t bump Fisher and the Aztecs out of the NCAA Tournament, which is scheduled to commence next week. SDSU and the rest of the nation will have their fate revealed at 3 p.m. tomorrow on Selection Sunday.

“I don’t think I know the resiliency of youth,” Fisher said. “We will tomorrow be euphoric when we see our name called.”

This marks Wyoming’s first-ever tournament championship as a member of the MW.

 

 

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