LAS VEGAS (AP)Lamont Butler scored 16 points and No. 20 San Diego State held on to beat Colorado State 64-61 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
The top-seeded Aztecs (25-6) never led by more than five points in the second half, and Isaiah Stevens’ 3-pointer gave the eighth-seeded Rams (15-18) a 59-58 lead with 1:42 left. Jordan LeDee and Matt Bradley each hit two free throws to give San Diego State a 62-59 lead with 16 seconds remaining.
“We knew this would be a hard game,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “I told the guys whether we made them efficiently or not, we made the plays when the game was on the line. Whether it was the play, or the play after the play, I thought we made enough important ones.”
Stevens made a layup to pull Colorado State back within 62-61, but Nathan Mensah sealed the game with a free throw and a block at the basket to send the Aztecs into the semifinals, where they will play fifth-seeded San Jose State on Friday.
San Diego State beat Colorado State for the third time this season. The Aztecs won at Fort Collins 82-76 in overtime and then blew out the Rams 77-58 in San Diego.
Stevens, the Rams’ leading scorer at 18 points per game, scored 16 points on 5-of-20 shooting Thursday.
“We really tried to just deny him the ball,” Butler said. “Make every shot hard for him. Stevens is a great player. It wasn’t just me or Adam (Seiko), it was a great team effort.”
Bradley had 13 points for the Aztecs. LaDee added 10 points and eight rebounds.
John Tonje led Colorado State with 17 points. Patrick Cartier added 12 and Jalen Lake had 10.
“We did a lot of things right today,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “I don’t think we could have given a better effort. … We guarded our tails off and just fought like crazy. We just needed one more play.”
Colorado State jumped out to an 8-0 lead and maintained its advantage until Bradley tied it at 20-20 on a 3-pointer with 7:24 left in the first half. It was the first basket of the game for Bradley, a first-team all-conference selection.
San Diego State took its first lead on a three-point-play by Butler that made it 25-24 and the Aztecs edged ahead 27-25 by halftime.
Colorado State: The Rams will lose Stevens, a first-team all-conference selection, and Tonje – the team’s two leading scorers – along with graduate transfer Cartier. Junior Isaiah River is the leading returning scorer at 8.8 points per game.
San Diego State: The Aztecs will be going to the NCAA Tournament regardless of their performance the rest of the way in the conference tourney. But another win or two in Las Vegas could help San Diego State earn a higher NCAA seed.
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