The battle between the two best teams in the Mountain West lived up to every bit of the hype. But for the third year in a row, the conference tournament title will stay in Albuquerque.
Behind 17 points and 9 rebounds from tournament MVP Cameron Bairstow, No. 20 New Mexico beat No. 8 San Diego State 64-58 en-route to their third consecutive Mountain West tournament title.
In a game that featured the Bairstow, as well as regular-season MVP Xavier Thames of San Diego State, it was last year’s conference player of the year Kendall Williams who came up clutch in the game’s final moments.
Leading by two with 26 seconds to go, Williams hit a step-back 3-pointer over SDSU defender Dwayne Polee II late in the shot clock to extend the Lobos lead to five points and all but seal a win. And after Thames’ double-clutch 3-pointer didn’t even draw iron, the celebration by a mostly-New Mexico crowd in the Thomas and Mack Center began.
But for the Lobos, a team who had already clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament, this game was unfinished business after blowing an 18-point lead to this same Aztecs team in San Diego last weekend.
“We know we let one slip away in San Diego,” Bairstow said. “At the same time we understood we had them right where we wanted them and just had to show up with the same mindset to beat them. Fortunately this time, we were able to close it out at the end.”
Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.