LAS VEGAS -- San Diego State and Fresno State did not have an easy path to the championship game, but they made it and now they are battling perhaps not simply for just the right to call themselves champions of the Mountain West Tournament, but perhaps also for the singular spot that the Mountain West will likely have in the NCAA tournament.
In the first half, these two California teams (one proudly representing the Central Valley and other the Southland) are fighting and hustling just like fans imagined they would in this championship showdown. Like in yesterday's match up against Reno, SDSU's Malik Pope came out quick, and this time, he had 12 of the team's first 14 points (including a domineering runaway slam). However, Marvelle Harris is catching fire and has given the Bulldogs a lead after trailing most of the first half. Right now, it's 39-36 Fresno State.
Here's 3 Things To Watch for in the second half:
1. Can Malik Pope continue dominating?
Pope is one of the most talented players on the court today. Unlike the majority of his junior and senior laden team, he's just a sophomore. His length make him a difficult cover, especially since he jumps out and shoots the 3 so effectively. Today, he must be vying for tournament MVP. His ability to stay out of foul trouble and remain in the game will only benefit the Aztecs chances of victory.
2. What will the Marvelle Harris effect be?
Harris is the reigning Coach's choice for Mountain West POY, and he's just beginning to play like it in the last 5 minutes of the first half. But, he has also shared the ball a lot, and his selflessness has led to excellent offensive flow for the Bulldogs. There's no doubt that Fresno State is a more formidable team when Harris is scoring in bunches. he currently has 14, and if he can add onto that, the Bulldogs have a great chance here today.
3. Which team's defense will make the difference after 40 minutes?
These are two, well coached teams. Even though Steven Fisher and his teams have been in plenty of high pressure situations over the last few years, the Bulldogs are a team composed of 9 players who are either juniors or seniors. Both teams can run the other down, bang inside, so this game comes down to defensive stops. Since this match up may go down to the wire, it will be about who ends up with the most efficient defense at the right (most pressure filled) moments.