LAS VEGAS — Fresno State’s Rodney Terry summed it up perfectly after his No. 4 Bulldogs eliminated No. 5 New Mexico on Thursday at Thomas & Mack Center to reach the Mountain West semifinals.
“Well, we’ve predicated everything over the last month of the season of working hard defensively,” Terry said after the Bulldogs won, 65-60. “And you win games this time of year with your defense. I thought our guys the last month of the season really tried to make a really good effort to be a better defensive team.
“I think our guys have really bought into it in terms of executing our defensive plan, ball screen defense, keep guys off the glass, and our guards got to help us rebound. They bought into the defense, and that helps you advance this time of year. And we haven’t looked back from that point.”
Fresno State held New Mexico to just 25 second-half points and a 37 percent mark from the field.
The Bulldogs, led by Delshon Taylor, outscored New Mexico 17-9 in the final five minutes of the contest.
Taylor tied the game at 51 with a 3-pointer with 5:08 left, and then scored on a lay-up 45 seconds later to make it 53-51. A free throw by Tim Williams made it 53-52, and then Dane Kuiper scored on a lay-up to make it 54-53 with 3:34 left.
Taylor hit another 3-pointer and Jaron Hopkins added two free throws for a 58-54 lead, and then Hopkins passed to Cullen Russo who dunked to make it a two-possession game. Taylor cinched the game with two free throws with 2 seconds left.
Taylor finished with 21 and Hopkins added 12. Elijah Brown, who kept the Lobos in it with two late 3-pointers, scored 16 and Williams added 15 points.
No. 2 Colorado State 81, No. 10 Air Force 55
The Rams’ Gian Clavell again proved why he’s the conference’s best player.
Clavell scored 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting (4-for-6 from 3) to lead the Rams to an easy victory.
The Rams are 4-0 in quarterfinal games under Larry Eustachy.
The talented CSU guard, who lit up Nevada for 33 points, played just 29 minutes against Air Force.
He has been 6-for-11 from the 3-point line in each of his last two games.
“I’m just playing the game,” Clavell said. “I’m a very confident player. If I like the shot, I’m going to shoot it.”
The Falcons, who upset Wyoming on Wednesday, led 24-23 before the Rams went on a 16-0 run to take control of the contest.
Nico Carvacho started the surge with a dunk and Clavell added a three-point play, Prentiss Nixon drained two free throws and Clavell drained a 3-pointer for a 33-24 lead.
Nixon scored on a lay-up, Emmanuel Omogbo had a flush and Nixon scored on a jump shot to complete the surge and make it 39-24 before Hayden Graham scored on a dunk right before the buzzer.
Graham had 13 in the opening half, but was held to just two in the final 20 minutes.
No. 6 San Diego State, No. 3 Boise State 68
The sixth-seeded Aztecs, the defending postseason champ, used a big 16-5 run at the end of the first half to gain a five-point led en route to an easy win over the Broncos.
The Aztecs face Colorado State today at 9:30 p.m.
Malik Pope injured his knee late in the game, left the floor and came back with his knee wrapped in ice.
Pope finished with 22 and Max Hoetzel added 21. Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley added nine each.
Nick Duncan and Austin Paris led the Broncos with 15 apiece while Alex Hobbs added 12 and James Reid, 10.