Men’s Basketball take down Colorado State, advance to Mountain West Tournament finals with 63-58

Lamont+Butler+throws+down+a+dunk+during+SDSUs+63-58+win+in+the+semifinals+over+Colorado+State.

Noelani Sapla

Lamont Butler throws down a dunk during SDSU’s 63-58 win in the semifinals over Colorado State.

by Jason Freund, Sports Editor

Game One went to San Diego State (23-7, 13-4 Mountain West Conference).

Game Two was a little closer but ultimately went to Colorado State (25-5, 14-4 MWC).

Game Three? Not quite the decisive victory the Aztecs were looking for, but they will certainly take it en route to a fifth straight appearance in the Mountain West Tournament championship.

In the rubber match between SDSU and CSU, it was the Aztecs who pulled away from the Rams in the final minutes of the game with a 63-58 victory, but it couldn’t have been more heart racing.

“We felt good about our performance,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We shared the ball, we performed under pressure and we found a way to win a really close game against a very good basketball team today.”

Once again, senior Matt Bradley was targeted by an opposing defense and was once again shut down on offense, scoring just five points and making two shots all game.

When a team’s top shooter has an off night, it usually results in that team’s defeat. Not for this team.

All nine Aztecs who logged minutes in the game scored at least one basket and were led by senior Trey Pulliam, who scored 11 points with six assists.

At first, it seemed like the Rams were ready to run away with the game. Heading into the first media timeout five minutes into the game, Colorado State led by seven points and had yet to miss a shot.

SDSU came out of the media timeout looking like a brand new team. Sparked by 3-pointers from seniors Adam Seiko and Aguek Arop (yes, that Aguek Arop), the Aztecs took the lead and took off to a 35-26 advantage at halftime.

Usually, teams can build off of a nine-point lead to make it even larger. But this is the Mountain West Tournament. There can be no easy games or big leads. Games must come down to the wire at the very last minute.

Throughout the second half, SDSU could never put CSU away as the Rams never fell behind too far in the game.

Junior David Roddy put up 22 points to keep the Rams in the game while fellow junior Isaiah Stevens served as the No. 2 shooter for the Rams with his 21 points.

At one point, SDSU led by 11 points in the second half. But it wasn’t enough to put CSU down for good, mostly because of the efforts put it by Roddy and Stevens.

A few missed shots here and a few missed free throws there by the Aztecs, and the Rams suddenly found themselves down to within four. Roddy’s dunk with under a minute left sliced that lead in half to just two.

Normally, Roddy would’ve been guarded in the interior by senior Nathan Mensah. For this rodeo, Mensah had to sit out after committing his fifth foul of the night, earning him a one-way ticket to the bench with no return.

Bradley nearly joined him as well as the senior had picked up four fouls throughout the game and was one whistle away from joining Mensah on the bench.

But here’s the kicker: despite the opportunity, CSU couldn’t take advantage. 

CSU shot just 50% from the charity stripe while SDSU hit on 72% of their free throws. Senior Adam Seiko was the driving force behind this, making four of his last six free throws to finish off the pesky Rams.

But it wasn’t just Seiko who helped SDSU win.

It was Arop, who stepped up on defense when Mensah got into foul trouble. There was senior Joshua Tomaic, who made two 3-pointers and also came through on defense. Then there was sophomore Lamont Butler at the point, directing traffic while making all four of his free throws.

Truly, it was a collaborative effort. Something they will need more of when they face their final opponent… Boise State.

The Aztecs have faced the Broncos twice this season. Twice they have lost.

SDSU is already guaranteed to be in the NCAA Tournament and is projected as a No. 9 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

So why not go into March Madness as a champion after beating the team that bested them twice?