No. 18 San Diego State can clinch its third outright Mountain West Conference regular-season title in the past four years with a win against Boise State on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho.
The Aztecs (23-5, 14-2 MWC) secured at least a share of the conference title when they beat New Mexico 73-71 on a last-second 3-pointer by Lamont Butler on Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M.
“Now, we have to go out and find a way not to share it with anybody,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
While the win over the Lobos was their most dramatic of the season, the Aztecs played one of their most complete games against Boise State in their first meeting.
San Diego State was coming off a 75-66 loss at Nevada on Jan. 31, which dropped the Aztecs into a tie atop the conference standings with Boise State, when they hosted the Broncos three days later.
San Diego State stormed to a 22-point halftime lead and held Boise State to 36.5 percent shooting from the floor in the 72-52 win.
The Broncos had difficulty guarding 6-foot-10 forward Nathan Mensah, who finished with a team-high 17 points after making all four of his field-goal attempts and 9 of 12 free throws.
Mensah is averaging just 7.8 points in the five games since the win against Boise State, but the Aztecs take pride in their scoring depth.
Four different players have led San Diego State in scoring since the win against Boise State. Matt Bradley scored 18 in a 63-61 win against Utah State on Feb. 8. Adam Seiko scored 18 off the bench in an 82-71 win against UNLV on Feb. 11. Jaedon LeDee scored 14 off the bench in a 77-58 win against Colorado State on Feb. 21. Darrion Trammell scored 18 points in the win at New Mexico.
Butler has twice led the Aztecs in scoring during conference play, both in difficult road wins.
He put up a season-high 23 points in an 80-75 win at Wyoming on Jan. 7, and 19 points in an 82-76 overtime win at Colorado State on Jan. 18.
His game-winning basket against New Mexico on Saturday night was, by far, his biggest moment, however.
“I was thinking all game, ‘Dang, I can’t get a shot to go in,’ but at the end of the game, you have to make big shots, big plays,” Butler said. “I trusted myself. I just let it fly.”
The win, coupled with Boise State’s surprising overtime loss at San Jose State on Saturday night, allowed the Aztecs to clinch at least a share of the conference title. They’ll be the No. 1 seed when the conference tournament begins next week in Las Vegas.
Boise State (22-7, 12-4) gave up 21 offensive rebounds in the loss to San Jose State, while only taking four.
“This league is tough,” Broncos coach Leon Rice said. “We kick ourselves because we were in a real good position. We’ll look at everything we did and try to be better. We have another great rebounding team coming in Tuesday.”
Tyson Degenhart leads four Boise State double-figure scorers with 14.3 points per game.
–Field Level Media