Not that New Mexico needed any extra motivation. But when San Diego State’s win over UNLV went final, the Lobos knew what they had to do.
Go out and take care of business against Boise State to guarantee a shot at revenge against the top-seeded Aztecs in today’s Mountain West Tournament championship game. It was a bit dicey in the second half but the second-seeded Lobos did indeed do what was required, beating the sixth-seeded Broncos, 70-67, before 15,135 at the Thomas &Mack Center and secure their 3 p.m. date with San Diego State on CBS.
A week ago, New Mexico squandered a 16-point lead at Viejas Arena as San Diego State rallied for a 51-48 win. Both teams are in the NCAA Tournament field of 68 so today will be about seeding for next week, pride and streaks. New Mexico is looking to win its third straight Mountain West tournament title. something no team has done in the 15-year history of the league.
While New Mexico (26-6) was getting the usual inside production from Cameron Bairstow who finished with 23 points, and 16 from guard Kendall Williams, the Lobos got an unexpected lift from guard Deshawn Delaney. The 6-foot-5-inch junior took advantage of being left alone for the most part and had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
But the Lobos had some work to do to get to the finish line. Boise State rallied to pull even at 46 with 10:56 to go. But the Broncos found themselves shorthanded after Thomas Bropleh was ejected after a hard foul on Bairstow with 7:15 remaining. The flagrant 2 foul resulted in a pair of free throws and possession for New Mexico and it also ended what had been a good night for the 6-foot-5-inch senior forward, who had 16 points before the ejection.
Yet despite being shorthanded, the Broncos refused to capitulate. Trailing 66-59, BSU reeled off six unanswered points to cut the deficit to one with 21 seconds remaining. It was still a one-point game when Bairstow was fouled with 3.8 seconds to go and made both free throws to seal the win.
Derrick Marks led Boise State (21-13) with 20 points as the Broncos await their postseason basketball fate Sunday. For New Mexico, there’s much more to play for, beginning today.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at 702-387-2913 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.