The San Diego State Aztecs will face off against the Boise State Broncos in the Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals Friday night.
After both teams received a first-round bye, they began Mountain West Conference tournament play on Thursday.
San Diego State got off to a slow start but pulled away from the Air Force Falcons, 73-60. Boise State controlled their game throughout, defeating the UNLV Runnin Rebels 67-61.
When the Aztecs face the Broncos Friday night, it will be the third time the two teams have met this season. The Aztecs defeated the Broncos both times.
The first meeting came back in early January when the Aztecs went wire-to-wire in front of the home crowd, 83-65. K.J. Feagin, Yanni Wetzell, and Malach Flynn all dominated, all scoring at least 19 points. Matt Mitchell joined them with 10 points, giving the Aztecs four double-digit scorers.
R.J. Williams led the Broncos with 16 points off the bench. No other Bronco scored in double-digits, but seven players scored at least five points. Boise State is a team of depth, and that was exemplified against the Aztecs.
The second meeting between the two happened to be the Aztecs’ final win as an undefeated team. The Aztecs pulled off an incredible team performance by having all five starters with double-digits in points. Justinian Jessup led the way for the Broncos with 22 points, going 5-10 from behind the arc.
One of the keys for San Diego State when playing the Broncos has been limiting Derek Alston. Alston leads the Broncos in scoring but struggled against the Aztecs in both meetings. He averages 17.5 PPG on the season, and 18.7 PPG in Mountain West Conference play. The Aztecs kept Alston in check both times, holding him to nine points in Viejas Arena, and 12 points in Boise. Expect the Aztecs to try to do the same in their third meeting.
The Aztecs need to play better in the first half. San Diego State trailed at halftime in each of their last four games. They are fortunate enough to be 3-1 in those games, but putting themselves behind the 8-ball time and time again will catch up to them at some point. A talented team like Boise State could punish the Aztecs if they aren’t careful.
Tip-off for this game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. PST. The winner will advance to the Mountain West Conference Championship and will play the winner of Utah State vs. Wyoming. This game will mean more for Boise State, given that San Diego State will be in the field of 68 with an at-large bid if they don’t win their conference tournament. Boise State can’t say the same, so their only way into March Madness is with the Mountain West Conference tournament title.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”