Knocking San Diego State out of the Mountain West Conference tournament is a tough task. Being asked to do that without your best player seems highly unlikely. That was the task at hand for Colorado State in their semi-final matchup against the Aztecs, as the absence of J.J. Avila proved to be too big of a loss for the Rams. Avila, who injured his right ankle against Fresno State in the quarter-final game on Thursday night, is the focus of the Ram's offense. Without Avila on the court, the Rams failed to pressure the Aztecs inside the paint, which then led to forced shots and shot clock violations. Without any true scoring option, Colorado State failed to find any offensive rhythm in their 56-43 loss to the Aztecs.
San Diego State's defense, which is ranked second in the country, shut down the hottest offense in the conference, holding Colorado State to 30 points under their season average. In what started off as a defensive battle, with a halftime score of 24-18, the Aztecs came out hot in the second half and took control of the game. Led by Aqeel Quinn and Winston Shepard with 16 points a piece, the Aztecs raced out to a 14 point lead in the second half and their defense held on tight to that lead. In only his fifth game back since collapsing on the court earlier this season, Dwayne Polee scored 12 off the bench, including a pair of three pointers that helped spark the Aztec offense in the first half.
Stanton Kidd was the only Ram in double figures with a 10 point night as he saw his team shoot 32 percent from the field, and 30 percent from three point range. Daniel Bejarano added nine points and nine rebounds, but shot 4-13 and only 1-6 from long range. Lacking depth at the forward position, Colorado State had no one to take the pressure off of their shooters, as they failed to find many open looks against the stingy San Diego State defense.
Up ahead for the Aztecs is a clash in the conference championship game against the Wyoming Cowboys. The Aztecs are 2-0 on the season against Wyoming, but they will be facing a team that is hungry for a shot to get into the NCAA Tournament. The championship game is at 3:00 p.m. PST and can be seen on CBS.