Saturday, March 14, 2009 | 6:09 p.m.
6:02 p.m. (Utah defeats SDSU, 52-50)
It was a clean sweep for Utah on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center, as Jim Boylen's club won the Mountain West Conference Tournament, and in the process sent San Diego State potentially right back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Utes hit 6 of 7 free throw tries in the closing minute, and SDSU guard Richie Williams lost control of the ball on his way to try and tie the game in the final seconds as Utah won, 52-50.
Williams hit two 3-pointers and a baseline jumper in the final minute, and after Lawrence Borha missed a free throw try with 5.7 seconds to go, the Aztecs had one last chance, but never got up a shot.
Luke Nevill, the MWC Player of the Year, led all scorers with 18 points to go with his 15 rebounds. Borha helped the Utes with 12 points, while Carlon Brown added 10, including back-to-back buckets to key an 8-0 run out of the half which gave Utah the lead for good.
SDSU's Lorrenzo Wade led the Aztecs with 12 points, but it came off of just 5-of-16 shooting. Ryan Amoroso had 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Aztecs, who now, because of outside developments, may no longer be a lock for an at-large NCAA tourney bid at 23-9.
The biggest wrench thrown in their spokes came with Southern Cal coming back from down 15 at halftime to defeat No. 23 Arizona State in the Pac-10 title game, 66-63.
The field of 65 -- which is not expected to include UNLV -- will be announced tomorrow at 3 p.m. PST.
5:32 p.m. (Utah leads SDSU, 40-33, with 7:36 to go in first half
Utah's stepped up in terms of playing a more physical brand of ball, and in turn has chiseled out a 7-point lead on San Diego State with 7:36 to play in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Kicking it all off was a key 8-0 run to open up the second half, highlighted by an alley-oop dunk from Carlon Brown. Green Valley High grad Billy White tried to answer for SDSU by finishing a lob of his own, but double-clutched in mid-air and missed the stuff. That's been pretty typical of the Aztecs' second half, as they've had multiple opportunities to chip back in.
Lots of empty possessions, as SDSU is just 5-of-16 from the floor this half and isn't rebounding nearly as hard as it did in the first. And now, time's starting to dwindle.
4:53 p.m. (SDSU leads Utah, 20-18, at halftime)
Utah scored the final six points of the first half, including a Lawrence Borha jumper from the right wing at the buzzer, and closed to within two points of San Diego State at the break, 20-18.
Both teams should feel like they've got a couple of aces up their sleeves heading into what will be a pretty wild second half.
For Utah, Jim Boylen's club can hang its hat on the fact that, at halftime, it trails by two points despite being 1-of-10 from 3-point range and 7-foot-2 center Luke Nevill has been pretty much taken out of this one. The Aussie big man has 8 points and 7 rebounds, but has been taken at defensively several times by Lorrenzo Wade and Ryan Amoroso, and on the offensive end, he can't create anything for himself and has been drawn away from the bucket.
SDSU has crashed the boards at will, and Utah only has 4 offensive rebounds on 19 tries.
On the other side, the Aztecs still have plenty of size left to throw at the Utes. Amoroso played 18 warrior-like minutes, tallying 4 points and 10 boards in the first half. He was needed more than ever. Tim Shelton and Billy White each picked up two quick fouls and played a combined 9 minutes.
Lorrenzo Wade has 6 points on 3-of-8 shooting, but you've gotta think that kid has plenty left to give after what he's shown the past two nights.
4:19 p.m. (SDSU leads Utah, 9-5, with 11:37 to go in first half)
Well, the question posed before the game was whether San Diego State could play as smart is at did the past two days in today's title tilt.
So far, so good, as the Aztecs lead a skittish group of Utes, 9-5, midway through the first half. San Diego State's perimeter defense has been far superior to Utah's, as just about every 3-point attempt the Utes have hoisted so far has been bothered and well off. Utah is 1-of-6 from deep.
Luke Nevill's been drawn out of the paint a ton, and Utah as a team is 2-of-13 from the floor.
Plus, credit the Aztecs for attacking Nevill on the glass with two or three guys on each shot attempt. So far, SDSU holds an 11-7 rebounding advantage, and Utah has only 2 offensive rebounds in 11 chances.
The only blemish so far are the two fouls on sophomore forward Tim Shelton. The second of which was away from the ball and maybe a tad unnecessary. It should be pointed out that Dave Hall's crew is calling the shots on this one.
3:07 p.m. (Utah women win MWC title, 63-58)
Morgan Warburton scored 3 of her game-high 24 points in the closing minutes to push Utah ahead of San Diego State, 55-54, and gave her team a lead it would never relinquish.
The Aztecs, who led from midway through the first half until Warburton's open longball, fell apart in the final minutes, hoisting ill-advised 3-point attempts in an effort to tie the game with plenty of time on the clock.
Warburton was named the women's tournament MVP, having added to her 24 points in the title tilt with 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a 14-of-14 showing at the free throw line.
Utah finishes the season 22-9, while SDSU heads to a likely NCAA Tournament at-large berth at 23-7.
Finally, UNLV senior forward Shamela Hampton, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds against the Aztecs in Friday's semifinal loss, was named to the all-tournament team.
We're about 40 minutes away from the big show, as SDSU and Utah will do battle on the men's side. Some early thoughts ...
--Can San Diego State play that smart a brand of ball for a third consecutive day? I'm willing to say the Aztecs are the league's most athletic/talented team, but we saw earlier this season that mental lapses can kill Steve Fisher's club. They looked like Princeton at times the last two days. One more showing like that? They won't have to sweat out the at-large stuff as teams like Maryland, Duquesne, Temple and Baylor screw things up for several bubble teams.
--How vicious can SDSU's student section get? They're my favorite so far, but to say they were gracious winners after beating BYU last night? Well, I'd be lying through my teeth.
--Whose perimeter shows up defensively? Both of these teams have made their mark so far in the tournament by taking away the outside shot, getting right up in the faces of opposing guards and forcing things to get done in the post.
--Which school had more drunken students at, say, 2 a.m., decide it was a great idea to drive to Vegas for the title game? That oughta add some flavor to the Mack.
Plenty more in about a half hour when this thing gets underway.
1:52 p.m. (SDSU women lead Utah at halftime, 28-25)
Think all these yahoos considering themselves 'bracketologists' are nuts? Well, if you tag yourself as an NIT-ologist, you belong in Arkum Asylum alongside The Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy.
Either way, it exists. Here it is.
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UNLV? Currently a 2-seed, with a home date projected against Cincinnati.
In case you forgot, the Rebels lost to Cincy, 67-65, at the Mack on Nov. 29. The Rebels, if I remember correctly, had quite a crowd that night. As far as what they'd draw, say, this Tuesday if the 18-14 Bearcats rolled into town again? I'm gonna guess ... ummm ... 6,000, max.
Chew on that one for a bit.
As for the women's championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, San Diego State, who trailed 8-2 in the opening minutes, leads Utah at halftime, 28-25.
The Lady Aztecs already have scoring contributions from 7 players, with Jene Morris's 9 points leading the way. Utah's Morgan Warburton has a game-high 13, but SDSU's athleticism, up-and-down game and overall scrappiness helped it claw back into this one. Things have gotten a bit testy between some of the players here late in the first half, so this second half could be worth watching if you feel like turning on Versus.
There's maybe about 4,000 fans in the Mack right now, and the crowd should be pretty solid for the men's game between these same two programs. I'd expect the lower bowl to be pretty full. An SDSU staffer at the end of the night was overwhelmed a bit by last-minute ticket requests, including one from former Aztecs linebacker and current Oakland Raider Kirk Morrison.