No. 15 New Mexico Defeats San Diego State, 60-50, Advances to MW Championship
Top-seeded New Mexico will defend its tournament title on Saturday.
Also for the Lobos (28-5), Cameron Bairstow added 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Alex Kirk had 15 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks.
Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley each led San Diego State with 14 points apiece.
The Lobos used a 24-4 run that lasted from late first half into early second half. The teams played in front of a sellout crowd that including an estimated 6,000 raucous New Mexico fans at the Thomas & Mack Center.
San Diego State was outrebounded 41-33, also thanks to the Lobos' Chad Adams, who had six.
New Mexico's Kendall Williams, the conference Player of the Year, was held to seven points, but had six assists. He only scored six points in Wednesday's quarterfinal win over Wyoming.
After leading 29-20 at intermission, the Lobos pulled away with a 14-2 run to start the second half. That completed the 24-4 spurt. Snell, who had eight 3-point attempts, had a personal 9-0 run to finish off that 12-point second-half run with three consecutive 3-pointers on four offensive possessions. That gave New Mexico its largest lead with 16:16 left in the game.
Snell was knocked out of the game briefly colliding with prep-school teammate Jaamal Franklin of San Diego State under the New Mexico basket with 7:40 left. But Snell returned to finish the last 5:21. Franklin ended with eight points and 12 rebounds.
San Diego State made a slight late run, cutting the Lobos lead to 55-46 with 4:20 to go, but came no closer as the Lobos scored the next four.
The game was a rematch of last year's tournament title game, which the Lobos won 68-59.
The teams split the regular-season meetings, with each team winning on its home court. Both teams had won the previous three tournament titles, with New Mexico in 2012, and San Diego State in 2011 and 2010.
New Mexico's rebounding and poor shooting by both teams highlighted the first half. The Aztecs were out-rebounded 25-14 in the session with Bairstow grabbing eight and Williams five.
San Diego State from the field shot 27 percent, while the Lobos were 35 percent. The Aztecs finished at 31 percent, while New Mexico was at 41.
The Lobos jumped to two early leads of five points, the last at 14-9. After the Aztecs the next five, Snell hit a 3-pointer from the right arc, putting the Lobos up for good, 17-14 with 7:50 until intermission. New Mexico ended the half on a 10-2 run.
This is the fourth time the teams met in the Mountain West Conference tournament. New Mexico now leads the series 3-1 also winning in 2005, and the Aztecs in 2010. Both were semifinal games.
The teams also met three times in the conference tournament while in the Western Athletic Conference during the 1980s and 90s.