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For the third time in three meetings this season, No. 2 seeded Colorado State rallied from 13 points down and defeated No. 6 seed San Diego State, this time 71-63, in the 2017 Mountain West Championship semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, March 10. Advancing to the MW Championship game for the first time under head coach Larry Eustachy, the Rams improved to 23-10 on the season, while the Aztecs fell to 19-14 overall.
Down eight early in the second half, Colorado State continued to claw back from the deficit and eventually tied it at 52 on a 3-pointer from redshirt-sophomore guard J.D. Paige with 7:11 and took their first lead of the game on a jumper by sophomore Prentiss Nixon with just over six minutes to play. The Aztecs had an immediate answer, but senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo canned a three from the left corner to again give CSU the lead, this time for good. San Diego State trimmed it to one on two SDSU free throws, but back-to-back threes by senior guard Gian Clavell and Paige pushed the Ram lead to seven with just under three minutes to play and it never got closer than five the rest of the way.
“Anytime we’re down by any margin we feel like we can come back and win, that’s just any team,” Clavell, the Mountain West Player of the Year, said postgame. “But, yeah, we always say, Stay with it, chip away and just one basket at a time.”
San Diego State scored the first five points of the game and opened the contest on a 12-2 run in the first five minutes. The Aztecs built as much as a 13-point lead in the first six minutes before CSU clawed its way back into the game, eventually tying it at 30 with just over two minutes to play in the half. SDSU closed the period on a 6-0 run and led 36-30 at the halftime break.
Colorado State finished the game at 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the field, including 50.0 percent (13-of-26) in the final period. San Diego State was held to 40.7 percent (24-of-59) on its field goal attempts, but were limited to just 33.3 percent (9-of-27) in the second half. The Rams connected on 20-of-25 free throw attempts (80.0 percent), making 11-of-12 in the last 20 minutes. The teams tied on the boards at 32.
Clavell finished with a game-high 21 points, while Omogbo recorded his 19th double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Nixon added 16 as well, along with a season-high tying seven rebounds, and Paige chipped in 11 points. SDSU was led by Malik Pope with 18 points, while Trey Kell had 15.