The Mountain West Conference tournament kicked off Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic spot into the NCAA National Tournament that starts on Tuesday March 17.
Fresno St vs Air Force Academy
The #8 Seed Fresno St Bulldogs played the #9 Seed Air Force Academy to start the first round of the MW Tournament. Fresno St came into the game fresh off their win on Saturday against Wyoming. Air Force was looking to bounce back from their regular season finale loss to Colorado State.
Fresno St won both matchups during the regular season against the Air Force Academy by an average margin of 10 points.
Air Force was looking to make a statement as they came out of the gate on fire. They were able to force some early turnovers, while shooting over 50% on their way to an 11 point lead at the midway mark of the first half. Both teams relied heavily on the 3pt shot during the first half, combining for 11 makes on 28 attempts.
Air Force struggled to score down the stretch, making just two baskets in the final 7 minutes of play. Fresno St took advantage and went on a 12-5 run to finish off those 7 minutes. The AF Falcons went into halftime up just three points, 31-28.
Both teams came out of the locker rooms in the second half determined to shoot a lot better. After the Falcons and the Bulldogs shot just 45% and 40% in the first half, they bumped those numbers up to 60% and 48%, respectively.
Fresno St was able to battle back and eventually take a 2pt lead, however, Air Force buckled down, regained the lead and held on for the win. Fresno attempted the majority of their shots from beyond the arc, going 10-21 from 3pt range.
With the win, Air Force moves onto the Quarterfinals to face the regular season Conference Champions San Diego St. on Thursday afternoon. This will be the first time since the 2013 Mountain West Tournament that Fresno St will not be playing in the Quarterfinals round.
New Mexico vs San Jose St
The #7 Seed New Mexico Lobos faced the #10 Seed San Jose State Spartans in the second matchup of the Mountain West Conference First Round.
New Mexico got off to a bit of a slow start, but quickly turned things around. After falling behind 6-2, the Lobos went on a 23-2 run to take a 17-point lead at the midway mark of the first half.
Behind the hot shooting of Makuach Maluch, who went 5-6 for 14 points, New Mexico went into halftime with a 45-29 lead.
The second half was much of the same from the first half. Very one sided. The only thing that changed was who led the way in scoring for New Mexico. Vance Jackson scored the first 12 points for the Lobos in the 2nd half. San Jose St had just 13 as a team in the same amount of time.
With the win, New Mexico will be advancing to face Utah State in the Quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. Utah St will be looking to get some revenge, as they lost the only regular season matchup with UNM, 66-64. The game will follow the UNLV vs Boise St game and will tip off at 6pm PT.