Alex Kirk, Skylar Spencer

No. 10 SDSU uses 26-4 run to beat No. 21 New Mexico, win MWC title

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According to Synergy Sports Technology, No. 10 San Diego State played zone on just 2.6% of their possessions entering Saturday night.

Do the math, and in a 65 possession game, the Aztecs play, on averaged, less than two possessions were of zone. They’re a man-to-man team, so you can understand why No. 21 New Mexico prepared for what has been a stifling Aztec man-to-man defense this season.

And that’s why one, simple coaching maneuver changed the outcome of Saturday night’s de-facto Mountain West regular season title game. Down 41-25 midway through the second half and completely unable to contain the Lobo front line of Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, SDSU head coach Steve Fisher threw on an extended, 1-3-1 zone that completely confounded the Lobos.

SDSU would ratchet up their transition game, turning turnovers into layups, and go on a 26-4 run to close out the game, taking home the MWC championship with a 51-48 win.

MORE: A closer look at New Mexico’s collapse

The Aztecs’ finishing kick was sensational, and the quality of Fisher’s coaching this season cannot be overstated, but it won’t change the fact that the Lobos were simply pounding SDSU. The Aztecs have some major issues scoring in the half court, and even after they switched up their defenses, SDSU had some trouble getting clean looks at the basket when going up against a set UNM defense.

They got lucky. New Mexico wasn’t expecting that 1-3-1 zone. They didn’t know what to do against it. The element of surprise is what won them this game, but you better believe that every single team that SDSU will play in the next month will be keenly aware that Fisher has that zone in his back pocket. It’s on film now. New Mexico head coach Craig Neal won’t be caught asleep at the wheel again. None of the teams that SDSU faces in the MWC tournament will. Their NCAA tournament opponents will certainly be prepared.

So while this win is great, and the title puts a much-deserved bow on what has been an outstanding season for the Aztecs, it does nothing to change my overlying opinion on this group.

They’re tough defensively, but their inability to create offense in the half court is a major, major concern.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.