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Aztecs move on to their fourth straight finals appearance

San Diego State University is off to the championship game in the Air Force Reserve Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship tournament for the fourth straight year. In the first semifinal of the day, the University of Nevada, Reno was sent packing after losing 

SDSU struggled to score the ball early in the game but when Jordan Schakel began his methodical takeover, that quickly changed. The guard scored eight straight points, including two deep balls from NBA range. The Aztecs quickly built upon this momentum and refused to trail for the rest of the game. Schakel would finish with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

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The game stayed competitive throughout, but the Wolf Pack was never able to threaten the Aztecs. Nevada was only outscored by two points in the second half, but the five-point deficit they faced going into the half proved to be too big of a hump to overcome late in the game. 

The Mountain West Conference player of the year, Matt Mitchell, had a rough first half to say the least. Mitchell shot 1-7 with only five points, but he more than made up for it in the second half. Finishing with 24 points and eight-rebounds, Mitchell’s woes from beyond the arc were soon forgotten, as he went three for four from deep in the second half.  

Despite the loss, Nevada had a great showing from their big three. Grant Sherfield leads the Mountain West in steals and assists, but by way of 25 points, it was his dominant scoring ability that was truly on display. Warren Washington and Desmond Cambridge Jr. were also bright spots for the Wolf Pack. Washington and Cambridge would finish with 19 and 17 points, respectively.

Unfortunately for Nevada, basketball is a team game, and when the entirety of your offense is contingent on three players, sometimes your lack of depth catches up to you. The Wolf Pack’s downfall was rooted in their supporting cast, the bench only totaled five points.

For SDSU, it was quite the opposite. Lamont Butler had a strong showing. As a player who only averages 4.4 points per game, Butler came out surprisingly aggressive and totaled ten of the Aztecs 16 bench points.

SDSU will play the winner of #2 Utah State University and #3 Colorado State University. If the Aggies advance it will be the third straight championship game between Utah State and SDSU

Regardless of their opponent, SDSU will be viewed as the favorite in the championship. But then again coming in as the odds on favorite has proven to somewhat of a boogeyman for SDSU in recent seasons. Nonetheless, SDSU is a deep team and they will be a tough beat for the Rams or the Aggies. They have a great inside-outside offensive attack, and anyone can go off on the floor. The Aztecs are an all-around team with great defense and depth.

It is sure to be a close in the final, regardless of who they play. Tipoff for the Air Force Reserve Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship is slated for 4 p.m. MST on March 13.

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.

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