LAS VEGAS — Nevada coach Eric Musselman was quick to point out the free throw edge that San Diego State enjoyed Friday night.
The Aztecs went 26-for-34 from the charity stripe compared to 12-for-17 for the Wolf Pack, and that was a major difference as SDSU won, 90-73, in the MW semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Free throws attempted is the difference in the game,” Musselman said. “It was from the beginning of the game. Give San Diego State a lot of credit for putting pressure on us and drawing 34 fouls attempted to our 17. We took 14 more shots and still couldn’t get to the line.”
Musselman was asked if the officiating was inconsistent.
“I’m not going to comment,” he said. “There is one glaring stat. You guys have the stat sheet, you can see it. And there one glaring thing, they out-rebounded us, too, significantly.”
SDSU won the battle of the boards, 38-28, and the Aztecs had 20 second-chance points.
STEPHENS INJURES ANKLE
Kendall Stephens went down in a heap early in the second half, and he played very little after that.
“We don’t think so,” Musselman said when asked if it was a serious injury. “It’s just precautionary. We were down and went with some guys that could trap and press.
“Up to that point in 20 minutes, Kendall hadn’t hit a 3 and hadn’t gotten a rebound. We just wanted to play Josh (Hall), because we thought he’d give us a little more activity.”
THE CAROLINE FACTOR
Whenever Jordan Caroline notches a double-double, the Wolf Pack usually wins.
Caroline, the lone bright spot Friday, scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 26th career double-double.
It was only the second time that Nevada lost when that happened.
Caroline has played five MW tournament games and has four double-doubles.
Brian Dutcher, SDSU coach, said Nevada should still get into the tournament.
“They’re an NCAA Tournament team, no doubt about it,” Dutcher said. “We definitely benefitted from having the numbers they had versus ours, that they had to play back-to-back.”
The Aztecs played eight players 10 minutes or more, and Nevada used just six.
SOME AZTEC NUMBERS
San Diego State has three wins against Top 25 teams, two of those wins were against Nevada … SDSU is the lowest seed (5th) to reach the title game since Wyoming advanced to the title game as the No. 7 seed … San Diego State moves into the title game for the second time in program history. In 2002, the Aztecs knocked off UNLV to claim the crown. They are the only No. 5 seed to reach the final … SDSU is now 29-14 all time in MW tournament games while Nevada is 5-5 … Jalen McDaniels posted his ninth double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
LOBOS IN TITLE GAME
New Mexico, under first-year coach Paul Weir, reached the title game with an 83-68 win over No. 7 Utah State.
Troy Simons led the Lobos with 17 points followed by Sam Logwood and Joe Furstinger with 16 and Chris McNeal with 10. Sam Merrill led Utah State with 17, Koby McEwen added 16, Julion Pearre 13 and Quinn Taylor 10.