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In its first Mountain West Championship game appearance in 14 years, No. 2 seed Colorado State could not get the offense going early, battled back to tie it but eventually lost to No. 1 seed Nevada, 79-71, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. With the loss, the Rams slipped 23-11 while the Wolf Pack improved to 28-6 and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolf Pack got off to a hot start, connecting on its first four shots from the field and opening a 9-0 lead just over two minutes into the game. CSU kept edging back but Nevada had the early answers through solid shooting, eventually building a 32-21 lead with just over five minutes to play in the opening half. Colorado State kept battling on both ends of the floor, but Nevada still managed to finish the half shooting 57.6 percent (19-of-33). Trailing by as many as 16 late in the period, the Rams got a running three from redshirt-sophomore guard J.D. Paige as the buzzer went off and headed into the halftime break trailing, 44-32.
CSU came out with a little momentum to start the second half and cut the lead down to six with the first six points of the half. The Rams eventually tied it at 51 with 11:31 left in the game on sophomore guard Prentiss Nixon’s three pointer. CSU had three chances to take its first lead of the game but couldn’t convert, and a Nevada 3-point play for the Wolf Pack put the top seed up for good. The Wolf Pack pushed the lead back out to six at 57-51 with three straight free throws on a foul and a bench technical, a lead the Rams could not overcome. CSU did get it back to within one in the final three minutes but could not get over the top.
Colorado State finished at 38.0 percent (27-of-71) for the game, including 11-of-33 from the three-point arc. Nevada shot 41.8 percent (23-of-55) from the game but took over at the free throw line in the final period, going to the line 34 times and hitting on 26 of them in the final 20 minutes. The Wolf Pack won the battle of the boards, decisively at 45-34.
Senior guard Gian Clavell led all scorers with 30 points but was just 3-of-12 from beyond the arc. Nixon had 23 points, while senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds. For Nevada, Jordan Caroline led the Wolf Pack with 23 points, while Marcus Marshall had 21.