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First Round Mountain West Tournament Recap

Air Force, New Mexico, and Wyoming all survive and advance

Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament - Championship - San Diego State v New Mexico Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The 2020 Mountain West Tournament is underway. Here is the recap of the three first round games on Wednesday:

Game One- #9 Fresno State vs #8 Air Force

There is an old saying in sports, which comes up a lot during this time of the year for college basketball teams, that it is hard to beat a team three times in one season, (even though there are statistics to prove that is not really the case).

Whether you believe in those old sayings or not, it was true when Fresno State and Air Force squared off the third time this season. The Falcons held on late to defeat the Bulldogs 77-70.

While the offense, for both teams, was up and down all game, what was consistent for Air Force throughout was its defense. The Falcons forced 15 turnovers and scored 14 points off those turnovers, while only allowing eight themselves.

Air Force went cold from the field down the stretch in the first half, only making three field goals in the final 10 minutes, but so did Fresno State. Air Force’s slump allowed Fresno State to get back in the game, pulling within three at the half, 31-28.

The Falcons held the Bulldog forwards quiet in the first half, only allowing four points in the paint and holding Orlando Robinson and Nate Grimes to seven total points.

In total, Air Force dominated points in the paint, outscoring Fresno State 30-10. Forward Lavelle Scottie, with his 21 points and six rebounds, aided the Falcons with its advantage in the paint.

Fresno State heated up in the second half. They made 10 three-pointers in the second half. However, foul trouble plagued Grimes and New Williams and Niven Hart. The trio combined for 47 points, but each had four fouls.

A.J. Walker led the Falcons with 24 points, he made five three points, which is a career high.

Williams led the Bulldogs with 21 points, all six of his made shots from the field were from behind the three-point line.

Air Force advances to the quarterfinals to face San Diego State at 11:30 a.m.

Game Two- #10 San Jose State vs #7 New Mexico

Nothing about New Mexico’s 2019-2020 season has been easy. From the off-the court issues, players being dismissed from the program, and underperforming on the court results, the regular season might be one the Lobos want to forget.

But with all that goes on in the regular season, everything can change in the conference tournament. And for New Mexico, their Mountain West tournament started off with a dominate performance over San Jose State 79-66.

Things started off slow for the Lobos, but they used a 21-0 run, that lasted nearly nine minutes, to take control of the game and go into halftime with a 16-point advantage.

The Lobos were spearheaded by Vance Jackson, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds. New Mexico also received contributions from Makuach Maluach and Corey Manigualt. Maluach scored 22 points on 73 percent shooting. And Manigualt, who fouled out, had 18 points.

New Mexico’s defense held San Jose State to 40 percent shooting overall. The Spartans missed all seven of its three-point attempts in the second half. Overall, the Spartans were 23 percent from three.

Seneca Knight’s efforts were not enough for San Jose State, he totaled 22 points on the day. Omari Moore had 17 points, Knight and Moore were the only two Spartans players to score more than eight points. Knight, a sophomore, and Moore, a freshman, could be a dynamic duo for the Spartans in the future.

New Mexico will now face Utah State at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

For a New Mexico perspective, check out Adam Evarts’ story here

Game Three- #11 Wyoming vs #6 Colorado State

Colorado State and Wyoming have had opposite trajectories during the 2019-2020 season. The Rams, who were picked to finish in ninth place in the preseason poll, strung together some victories and won 11 conference games, which was good enough for a tie for fifth place.

Wyoming, on the other hand, had another single digit win season, its second in a row. They won seven games and only two of them were in conference, which had them in the cellar of the Mountain West.

While the Cowboys’ chances to win looked slim, March is the time for Cinderella’s and Wyoming was the Cinderella on the first day of the Mountain West Tournament with an 80-74 win over Colorado State.

This marks the first time that an 11 seed has won its opening round game on the men’s side since the conference expanded to 11 teams.

Right from the start, Wyoming could not miss. They made five of its first six three-pointers and shot 70 percent from the field. Their lead grew to as high as 16 in the first half.

Colorado State made a second half run thanks to its job on the boards. They came down with 30 second half rebounds and were 11-18 on layups.

The Rams made a run late, cut the deficit to four with only second remaining, but a steal and dunk from Hunter Maldonado was the final nail in the coffin for Colorado State.

Freshman Isaiah Stevens led the Rams with 22 points, Nico Carvacho had 20 points and 15 rebounds.

All five Wyoming starters scored in double figures, the five combined for 74 of the 80 Cowboys points. Kwane Marble led the way with 20 points, a career high.

Wyoming will play UNR in the final quarterfinal Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.