Nevada, San Diego State, Utah State and New Mexico Advance To Friday’s Semis
Utah State highlighted the day with its upset of No. 2 seed Boise State
Friday’s semifinals are set after a packed day of action on Thursday
It was an eventful day of basketball at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Friday as four teams advanced to the conference’s semifinals. Nevada, San Diego State, Utah State and New Mexico will vie for an NCAA Tournament auto bid in the next 48 hours. Below is our major takeaway from each of Thursday’s quarterfinal matchups.
Nevada Is Beatable
The second half was all Wolf Pack, but Nevada showed its lumps in the first 20 minutes and change in its 79-74 win over UNLV on Thursday. Nevada heated up considerably in the second half, bouncing back from its poor first half shooting performance. Even so, there’s something to be said about Nevada’s inability to put away a struggling UNLV team that needed overtime against Air Force to end its five-game losing streak. Next up for Nevada is San Diego State, which is surging amid its string of seven consecutive wins. The Aztecs defense has been nothing short of elite over the past couple weeks, and if SDSU closes out on Nevada’s perimeter shooters, we could see San Diego State playing in the tournament title game.
San Diego State’s Defense Is Back
The Aztecs took care of Fresno State Thursday night with a convincing 64-52 victory, advancing to the semis to face Nevada. Though San Diego State wasn’t great offensively, its swarming defense clearly frustrated Fresno State and made it difficult on the Bulldogs. With typical leading scorers Deshon Taylor and Jahmel Taylor going a combined 3-17 from the field, Fresno limped to 0.79 points per possession, the second-worst mark of the season for the Bulldogs. San Diego State hasn’t allowed opponents to score 60 points in four of its last six games, going 6-0 over the span. Up next for San Diego State is Nevada, one of the nation’s strongest offenses.
Utah State Can Hang If It Gets Hot
The biggest upset of the day was No. 7 seed Utah State’s 78-75 thrilling win over No. 2 Boise State, knocking the Broncos out of the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Sam Merrill exploded for 28 points, going 8-15 from the field with seven of his eight made field goals coming from behind the three-point line. Utah State lit it up from deep, pocketing 14 of its 25 attempts from the perimeter. Though the Aggies are destined to regress to the mean on Friday, when shots are falling for Tim Duryea’s squad, Utah State is dangerous.
New Mexico’s NCAA Tournament Chances Are Very Real
New Mexico went the distance Friday night, leading the entirety of its victory over sixth-seeded Wyoming. Though the game was far from a blowout, the Lobos made their presence felt through its physicality, pace of play and sharp-shooting. Joe Furstinger was the man of the night, scoring a career-high 23 points on 13 shot attempts. Only two other Lobos finished in double figures, but seven of the nine players that checked into the game for Paul Weir scored at least eight points. New Mexico’s style could cause some problems for No. 7 seed Utah State on Friday, who survived in a thrilling victory over Boise State. UNM handled the Aggies in their last meeting, a 78-63 victory, and with a semifinals win, New Mexico would participate for an NCAA Tournament berth on Saturday.