Aztecs set to battle top-seeded Nevada in MW tournament semifinals


Photo by Kelly Smiley

Senior forward Malik Pope shoots over senior center Terrell Carter II during the Aztecs 64-52 victory over Fresno State in the MW tournament quarterfinals on March 8 in Las Vegas.

by Abraham Jewett, Sports Editor

San Diego State men’s basketball welcomed the Mountain West regular-season champion No. 22 University of Nevada into Viejas Arena on March 3.

The Aztecs defeated the then-No.21 ranked Wolf Pack 79-74, ending their opponents six-game winning streak and extending their own season-best streak to six games.

Come Friday evening, SDSU’s opponent will be the same, but the setting, as well as the stakes, will be much different.

The Thomas and Mack Center will play host, as the Aztecs and Wolf Pack face off in a semifinal matchup which will determine who moves onto the tournaments final game, and who leaves Sin City empty-handed.

The Aztecs defeated Fresno State University to make it to the semifinals, while Nevada rallied against a fired up UNLV team, which let a halftime lead slip away against the tournaments No. 1 seed. 

“(Nevada’s) a fantastic team,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We can all see that. What they’ve done with their body of work this year. And it’s going to be a real challenge.”

The Wolf Pack have won 27 games this season, and are led on offense by junior guard Jordan Caroline (17.6 points per game) and junior forward twin brothers Caleb Martin (19.5 points per game) and Cody Martin (14 points per game).

The Aztecs have had a hard time slowing down Caroline in either of the teams meeting this season, with the junior scoring 26 points during an 83-58 victory on Feb. 10, and 29 points against the Scarlet and Black only six days ago. 

Caroline’s a monster,” Dutcher said after the game on March 3. “He played like an MVP tonight. He was sensational, he plays so hard.”

Nevada will be missing junior guard Lindsey Drew, who is out with an injury, and which leaves the team with only six players who average over seven minutes a contest.

The short bench may come back to haunt Nevada, but Dutcher said that the Wolf Pack have more than enough talent to win, and the Aztecs will be ready.

“What they have is good enough to win this tournament, and what we have is good enough,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a real battle tomorrow.”

The winner will advance to the final round to play the winner of the day’s other semifinal matchup between No. 7 seed Utah State and No. 3 seed University of New Mexico.