Friday, March 13, 2009 | 11:04 p.m.
10:45 p.m. (Utah wins, 68-55, will face SDSU)
If San Diego State plays the way it has the past two days in the Mountain West Conference tournament, it's tough to picture the Aztecs being defeated by anyone in this league.
If Utah center Luke Nevill plays like he did on Friday night against Wyoming, it's tough to picture anyone getting the best of him.
Well, we'll see which of the two forces is more dominant on Saturday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. The No. 2 seeded Utes will face the No. 7 Aztecs at 4 p.m. with an NCAA Tournament automatic bid on the line -- not that either team really needs one at this point.
Nevill took firm control of the nightcap, finishing with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots against the overmatched Cowboys. It came 24 hours after he was rendered pretty much ineffective against TCU in the quarterfinals.
As for the Cowboys, who were the feel-good story of Thursday's action, they were silenced by a hounding defensive approach from the Utes. Luka Drca and Lawrence Borha spearheaded an effort that held Wyoming -- the league's most dangerous 3-point shooting club -- to a 1-of-10 showing from deep.
Both the women's and men's final will include SDSU and Utah. The women tip off at 1 p.m.
9:30 p.m. (Utah leads Wyoming at halftime, 35-29)
Utah did nothing flashy, and its only attempt at doing so -- an alley-oop toss to Carlon Brown -- failed. But slow and steady is winning the race, as the Utes lead Wyoming at halftime in the night's second semifinal, 35-29.
Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Luke Nevill, who was held to one field goal in a win over TCU in the quarterfinals, scored 10 of Utah's first 13 points, as they used a 13-0 run early to open up a 19-6 edge.
But for as clean as Utah's looked, Wyoming's pulled out every acrobatic trick it has in pulling to within six points at the break.
The Cowboys constructed their own 11-3 run, during which Sean Ogirri hit a 3-pointer, hit 3 free throws after getting fouled on his next attempt, Afam Muojeke hit a circus layup against Nevill and Brandon Ewing converted an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Ewing has 9 points for Wyoming, while Ogirri -- the league's most dangerous 3-point gunner -- has 8. The Cowboys are 9-of-24 from the floor, and have only 2 assists to 7 turnovers.
Utah is efficient as ever, hitting 13 of its 26 floor attempts, and registering assists on 10 of them.
Dave Hall's crew is calling this game, but only 14 whistles were blown in the first half. If you're a regular on this site, you know just what tends to happen in Hall-officiated contests.
8:07 p.m. (SDSU defeats BYU, 64-62)
There's your storyline for the weekend -- hometown hero Lorrenzo Wade continues to carry San Diego State through the Mountain West Conference tournament, this time doing so with 22 points in a 64-62 victory over BYU in Friday's first semifinal.
Wade, a Cheyenne High grad, scored 24 points, including 12 of SDSU's final 13, as the Aztecs cemented their case for at least an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Heck, one more win and at-large is something they don't have to worry about at all.
He absolutely took over that game. I mean in every way possible. Far and away the most dangerous team left in this field, given their size and athleticism. Rob Miech loves to remind me that his alma mater is 0-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, but this team has a ton of potential to end that drought.
He hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds left to put the Aztecs up by four an all but ice it, giving him 44 points and 17 rebounds in two games so far this weekend.
Wyoming and Utah are now warming up in what will probably be just as wild a game. However, how many people will see it? The BYU faithful made up more than half of the full lower bowl in the Mack for the night's first game, and they're mostly filtering out as the San Diego State students chant 'Go-Home-Cou-gars' at them. And Utah really didn't travel all that well for the tourney, to be honest.
7:01 p.m. (SDSU leads BYU at halftime, 31-28)
BYU guard Jackson Emery earned a technical foul after cursing and slapping the floor which spurred a big San Diego State run, and the Cougars' dance team performed to Chris Brown at halftime -- so yes, a weird semifinal round so far.
But at halftime, SDSU held a 31-28 edge on BYU, and the fans certainly did their share of bickering back and forth across the arena during the 15-minute intermission.
The box score is pretty even across the board, and SDSU is playing just as calm a brand of ball as they did yesterday in slugging UNLV methodically, 71-57.
The guy to thank for that is Cheyenne High product Lorrenzo Wade.
It's hard not to fall in love with this guy's game and overall court presence the more you watch him. He's the perfect kind of senior to have on the floor in the sense that he never gets too low, never too high. He directs traffic calmly, knows how to work referees. Plus, you know, he's just a pretty good player. He had a game-high 8 points in the first half on 2-of-3 shooting and had a couple of steals.
He also scored a major assist in helping teammate Ryan Amoroso avoid a technical foul. Amoroso fell under the bucket after missing a shot, and was called for a foul when a BYU player tripped over his head bringing the ball upcourt. Amoroso shot up and was in the ref's face the whole way up the floor before Wade calmly separated the two and smoothed things over.
He credited his court savvy yesterday to being part of a Final Four run in his one season at Louisville, playing with guys like Taquan Dean, Ellis Myles and Francisco Garcia.
Tell you what, it was believed coming into this weekend that if SDSU plays at its peak, they're hands-down the favorite to win this tournament. So far, they've played 3 halves at that caliber.
6:00 p.m. (SDSU and BYU about to tip)
Boy, the whole UNLV-to-the-NCAA-Tournament thing just refuses to die. Is there something known about this team that the rest of us have just missed the boat on? Did that win at Louisville unlock some magic automatic entry vault into the field of 65? Are Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony all on the selection committee?
Well, either way, a few 'bracketologists' across the country still have the Rebels as tourney players.
The most notable publication is probably the USA Today, which still somehow has UNLV as an 11-seed, facing Purdue in the first round in Minneapolis.
Not to say that UNLV has a great chance still at being stunned on Sunday afternoon, but they did get a little help since losing. New Mexico's loss to Wyoming last night basically puts the Rebels and Lobos neck-and-neck should the league get four bids. But right now? It probably won't. UNM won 9 of its last 10 league games, but UNLV had a much more productive, challenging non-conference schedule.
However, to update a not from last night's blog, we found out that a Tuesday night home game in the NIT would be possible, despite the T.I. & Friends concert set to take place in the Mack on Wednesday evening. An arena employee told us ver dinner that it is very doable to convert the Mack from a gym to a concert venue in time if there's a Tuesday ball game.
SDSU, while writing this, claimed a 9-8 edge on BYU in the opening minutes of the night's first semifinal. Judging by the pace so far, this one should be close the entire way.
4:32 p.m. (SDSU defeats UNLV, 71-63
UNLV's presence in the Mountain West tournaments is now non-existent, as the women's team's run in their bracket was ended by No. 2 seed San Diego State, 71-63.
Senior forward Shamela Hampton had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Rebels, who closed a double-digit second-half deficit down to as few as two points with less than 4 minutes to play.
SDSU advances to face Utah in tomorrow's women's title game, and we're now about 90 minutes away from men's semi No. 1 between BYU and San Diego State.
Be back shortly.
3:36 p.m. (UNLV trails SDSU, 32-20)
It looks like San Diego State is well on its way to making it 3-for-3 this season against UNLV.
Now, what exactly do I mean by 3-for-3?
Well, think about it this way ...
--With a shot at a 6-6 record and a bowl berth, the UNLV football team dropped its season finale back in November, 42-28, at SDSU.
--Saturday, the Aztecs dumped UNLV in the regular season hoops finale, then dispatched the Rebels for the third time this season yesterday in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals, 71-57. That all but ended UNLV's hopes of landing an at-large berth in next week's NCAA Tournament.
--Today, the SDSU women's hoops squad is in control -- somewhat -- against the Lady Rebels, who are in the MWC semifinals for the first time since 2006.
Granted, the UNLV women are sort of playing with house money here. As the 7-seed in the field, they've pulled off upsets of BYU and TCU already this week. Anything from here on out for Kathy Olivier's 14-17 squad is pretty much a bonus. But, still, a nice step ahead under first-year coach Kathy Olivier.
UNLV trails 32-20 at the break, but this game has been marred by turnovers -- 13 on each side.
Much like in the mens game, SDSU's athleticism is creating the spread on the scoreboard. Senior forward Shameela Hampton has 13 of UNLV's 20 first half points.
Now, San Diego State has another chance to build its stack against UNLV later tonight.
In case you didn't know, the 11-3 Rebels baseball team heads to Tony Gwynn Field for a 3-game weekend series.
There, UNLV has the fortune of opening the stretch against Aztec ace Steven Strasburg, who is believed to be the favorite as the No. 1 pick in this June's MLB amateur draft.
Last week, he struck out 18 USD batters in 8 innings pitched. Oof. Good luck, fellas. This guy hits the gun at 102 mph regularly.
Back with more as soon as this one wraps up.