2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament: TCU Eliminated, BYU And SDSU Advance To Semifinals

TCU was eliminated from the 2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament on Thursday, losing 64-58 to BYU.

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2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament: San Diego State Takes On UNLV In Semifinal

The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) — Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: UNLV 12-4, SDSU 14-1. Away Record: UNLV 9-3, SDSU 11-1. Neutral Record: UNLV 3-0, SDSU 5-0. Conference Record: UNLV 11-5, SDSU 14-2. Series Record: UNLV leads, 32-19.

GAME NOTES: Despite playing on their home floor, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels aren’t considered the home team tonight as they tangle with seventh-ranked San Diego State in the semifinals of the 12th annual Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Because the Rebels are the third seed in this event and SDSU the second seed, this is considered a neutral-site affair even though the vast majority of the fans in the stands will be rooting for UNLV. The Rebels, who are 12-4 on this floor in 2010-11, but are only 5-3 versus league foes, have won six consecutive games thanks to their 69-53 romp over the Air Force Falcons last night.

As for the Aztecs, a team which is enjoying its best season in program history at 30-2, it doesn’t seem to matter much where they play these days, just as long as they’re not facing BYU, the only team to defeat them this year. In the quarterfinals on Thursday, the Aztecs took care of the Utah Runnin’ Utes with a 64-50 victory which means SDSU has now rattled off three straight wins and victories in 10 of the last 11 outings overall.

As far as this tournament is concerned, San Diego State is the defending champion, having defeated this same UNLV squad in the title tilt a year ago by a score of 55-45. The Aztecs have appeared in two straight championship games and have worn the crown a total of three times, matching the number of title victories by UNLV, which is now 20-7 in this event over the years.

SDSU won both meetings between the teams during the regular season, a 63-57 decision in Sin City back in February and a 55-49 triumph at Viejas Arena a month earlier, which means the all-time series now favors the Rebels by a count of 32-19.

UNLV scored the first points of the night against Air Force and never looked back, holding the Falcons to just nine field goals in both halves. Offensively, the stars for the Runnin’ Rebels were Chace Stanback and Tre’Von Willis with 20 points apiece, the former shooting 6-of-8 behind the three- point line and the latter adding eight assists and seven rebounds to pace the team in those to categories. Not only did UNLV finish the outing at 50 percent from the floor, the team also connected on an impressive 11-of-20 behind the three-point line. Willis continues to lead the team in scoring this season with his 13.3 ppg, while Stanback checks in with 12.7 ppg and provides the group with a team-high 6.0 rpg as well. Oscar Bellfield is not only good for 11.2 ppg, he has handed out a team-high 116 assists which makes his mere 37.9 percent shooting from the floor slightly more tolerable.

Utah may have led by two points early in the meeting yesterday, but that was just temporary as the Aztecs limited the Utes to a mere seven field goals in the first half and 15 points in the frame. The defense was huge for SDSU as it held the opposition to only 39.6 percent shooting from the floor and 23.1 percent out on the perimeter, all while forcing 20 turnovers. Kawhi Leonard stepped up with yet another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, an effort nearly matched by Malcolm Thomas who accounted for 13 points, 10 boards and a team-best eight assists as well. Billy White almost made it a trio of double-doubles as he turned in 11 points and nine rebounds. Leonard is averaging a double-double on the season with 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest, while Thomas comes up with 11.6 ppg and another 8.3 rpg for a squad that holds a 7.0 rpg advantage over the competition in 2010-11 and because of that is able to outscore those opponents by more than 13 points per game this season.

There’s no way the Rebels can handle the Aztecs in the paint tonight, even with the Vegas crowd on their side.

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2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament: BYU Takes On New Mexico In Semifinal

The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) — Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: UNM 13-3, BYU 13-1. Away Record: UNM 6-7, BYU 10-1. Neutral Record: UNM 2-1, BYU 6-1. Conference Record: UNM 8-8, BYU 14-2. Series Record: BYU leads, 74-55.

GAME NOTES: It is all about revenge tonight as eighth-ranked BYU takes on the New Mexico Lobos for the third time this season as the team collide in the semifinals of the 12th annual Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The top-seeded Cougars have lost a total of just three games all season and only two in conference play, but both of those league setbacks came against the Lobos so there is certainly some payback involved in tonight’s battle. BYU, which won this event back in 2001 and has a record of 14-10 overall in the tourney, hit the floor against ninth-seeded TCU on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals and actually struggled against the Horned Frogs before pulling out the 64-58 win to advance.

As for the fifth-seeded Lobos, their journey in the 2011 MWC Tournament began on Thursday as well as they defeated fourth-seeded Colorado State by a score of 67-61. New Mexico, which lost to the Cougars in that 2001 title game, is now 7-10 in the event overall and is trying to get back to the championship round for the first time since 2005 when it took down Utah for the trophy, 60-56.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, BYU still leads by a count of 74-55 but the team lost to the Lobos at home last week by a score of 82-64, and also bowed in Albuquerque in late January in an 86-77 decision.

The winner of this meeting advances to take on either UNLV or San Diego State in the title game on Saturday.

The Lobos may have struggled early on in conference play this season, but the squad is hitting its stride at just the right time. Yesterday, UNM managed to get away with shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor and 6-of-19 beyond the arc and still take the win over Colorado State. Drew Gordon played tough inside as he recorded a double-double consisting of 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Kendall Williams again showed why he is one of the most exciting youngsters in the conference with his team-best 16 points. Before fouling out A.J. Hardeman filled out his stat line with 10 points, nine rebounds, four steals, three assists and a couple of blocked shots in an effort to pick up the slack left by Phillip McDonald (3-of-13). Dairese Gary, who finished with nine points and five assists, remains the leading scorer for UNM after 32 games with his 14.3 ppg and he is also first in assists with 175, but perhaps the emerging star for the Lobos is Gordon who is averaging a double-double with 12.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg. However, sleeping on Williams (11.2 ppg) and McDonald (10.9 ppg) would also be a huge mistake.

Playing against a team that had dropped 13 in a row to close out the regular season, you would have thought the Cougars would have had an easy time of it against TCU yesterday, but that simply wasn’t the case. Wile Jimmer Fredette was able to produce a game-high 24 points for BYU, he shot just 7-of-21 from the floor, while Charles Abouo accounted for 14 points and eight rebounds and Noah Hartsock 10 points, seven boards, four assists and three blocked shots for the Cougars. Having a very difficult game was Jackson Emery, who was just 3-of-13 from the floor, including 1-of-8 behind the three-point line, as the team finished a disappointing 6-of-23 out on the perimeter overall. Clearly the focal point for the Cougars continues to be Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer at 27.8 ppg, but the loss of Brandon Davies due to a violation of the school’s honor code continues to haunt the group. Without Davies, the Cougars need not only Hartsock (8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) to hit the boards a little harder, they need everyone to make better shot selections in order to avoid too many missed opportunities.

After the painful display by the Cougars yesterday, it’s difficult to see them really making a run at New Mexico tonight. Perhaps knowing that they are already locked into the NCAA Tournament should be good enough for the Cougars right now because they just don’t have the strength on the inside to hold off Gordon.

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2011 Mountain West ConferenceTournament: BYU Defeats TCU

Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) - Jimmer Fredette, the nation's leading scorer, poured in 24 points and made two big free throws with 12 seconds remaining, as the eighth-ranked BYU Cougars snuck past the TCU Horned Frogs, 64-58, in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Charles Abouo added 14 points and eight rebounds for the top-seeded Cougars (29-3), who will take on either New Mexico or Colorado State in the semifinals on Friday.

Noah Hartsock donated 10 points and seven boards for BYU, which earned a spot in the semis for a fifth consecutive season.

Greg Hill and Hank Thorns each finished with 15 points for the ninth-seeded Horned Frogs (11-22), who beat Wyoming in the opening round on Wednesday to snap a 13-game skid.

J.R. Cadot and Garlon Green donated 12 and 11 points, respectively, for TCU, which went 9-of-19 from beyond the arc.

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