LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jamaal Franklin, playing most of the
second half with three fouls, scored 19 points and Chase Tapley had 10
of his 17 in the first five minutes of the second half to lead No. 18
and top-seeded San Diego
State to a 79-69 victory against fourth-seeded Colorado State in the
Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals on Friday night.
Steve Fisher's Aztecs (26-6) will play for their third MWC tournament
title and automatic NCAA tournament bid on Saturday when they face the
winner of the other semifinal between No. 20 UNLV and New Mexico.
James Rahon had 15 points and Garrett Green 10 for SDSU.
Aztecs were expected to be an afterthought this year after losing four
starters from last year's team, which reached the Sweet Sixteen and won a
school-record 34 games. But they weathered a three-game losing streak
midway through conference play and shared the regular-season league
title with New Mexico.
The Rams (20-11) are hoping their RPI of 21
and regular-season wins against SDSU, UNLV and New Mexico will earn
them their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003. The Rams beat SDSU by
17 at Fort Collins on Jan. 28.
Dorian Green had 20 points for CSU, while Jesse Carr had 17 and Dwight Smith 12.
39-38 at halftime, SDSU turned it on in the second half and didn't let
the Rams back in, as it did in the first half. Colorado State shot just
35.5 percent after the break.
Franklin, the MWC player of the
year, was whistled for two fouls in the game's first four minutes. He
picked up his third just a minute into the second half. Not long after,
big man Tim Shelton committed his third foul.
It didn't affect the Aztecs, though.
hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession and Tapley made a runner in
the lane and converted a three-point play for a quick 44-40 lead.
After CSU's Green converted a three-point play, Tapley and Shelton made layups to push the lead to 48-43.
Tapley made a layup and a three pointer during the next few minutes, and Franklin's 3-pointer made it 59-48 with 14:41 to play.
Stephens, who had a big game against CSU's Will Bell, had a slam dunk
for a 61-50 lead with 13:36 to go. Stephens had nine rebounds and
blocked three shots by Bell.
San Diego State led by six midway through the half and had five-point leads twice after that. Each time, Colorado State came back.
had a putback for a 26-21 lead with 6:09 left before Green made a layup
and Bell made a shot off a rebound, was fouled and converted the
three-point play to tie it.
SDSU's Xavier Thames and Franklin made 3-pointers sandwiched around Bell's free throw to make it 32-27.
came back and took the lead this time, getting two free throws from
Bell and 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Wes Eikmeier and Carr
to go up 35-32. The Aztecs' last lead of the half was 36-35 after Thames
made two free throws and Rahon a jumper. Eikmeier and Carr again made
consecutive baskets for a three-point lead, and Rahon's jumper in the
final seconds pulled SDSU to 39-38 at the half.