LAS VEGAS– A little more than 24 hours after one of the most dramatic victories of its season, the San Diego State men’s basketball team decided to take an approach to victory that was easier on the heartbeat.
SDSU received contributions from a number of players, most notably from sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin and junior guards Chase Tapley and James Rahon, on its way to a 79-69 win against Colorado State in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament last night.
The win will put the Aztecs in the finals of the MW Tournament. It’s the fourth straight appearance in the title game for SDSU.
“We’re proud to represent our university, city and conference in the championship game,” Fisher said. “Whoever we play, we will compete and play hard.”
It looked as if Aztecs might not even reach the title game. The Rams led by a point at halftime and shot 51.9 percent from the field in the first half.
SDSU eventually pulled away and improved its record to 26-6 this season.
Tapley turns it on
Tapley took control of the game in second half against Boise State on Thursday; it was more of the same against CSU last night.
After scoring three points in the opening half, he scored 14 in the second half to lead the Aztec rally.
In the postgame press conference, Tapley said he has to bring his best when the game matters most.
“That’s the final 20 minutes of the game,” Tapley said. “So you’ve got to be on your A game. In the locker room, my teammates were complimenting me, saying, ‘It’s going to be your half.’ I got some key layups and that got me started. From then on, I felt comfortable coming off the pick-and-rolls.”
Stephens steps in
When Franklin picked up his second foul early in the game, it looked like SDSU was going to be in trouble without the MW Player of the Year.
But junior forward DeShawn Stephens stepped in and gave the Aztecs the intensity they needed with their best player on the bench.
Stephens only scored four points, but his impact was felt in other areas.
He kept CSU’s Pierce Hornung from rebounding at his normal rate and blocked three Ram shot attempts.
Stephens said he just took the advice of his coach and didn’t settle.
“Coach Fisher just basically tells us to go in and don’t let up,” Stephens said. “We just try to keep it at a level of good play.”
News and notes
Rahon scored 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting and senior center Garrett Green played well, as he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Green also hit his first 3-pointer while wearing an SDSU uniform.
The bench improved its play from the Boise State game. Against the Rams, the Aztec bench scored 17 points, snagged 15 rebounds and only committed one turnover.
SDSU is in the tournament finals for the sixth time in the 13-year history of the MW. The fourth straight championship game appearance is a league record.
The Aztecs will conclude its MW Tournament run against New Mexico at 4 p.m. today at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.