LAS VEGAS (AP) Jordan Caroline had 23 points and 10 rebounds as Nevada beat Colorado State 79-71 on Saturday in the Mountain West Conference championship game to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years.
The top-seeded Wolf Pack (28-6) claimed the league’s automatic bid for their first trip to the NCAAs since winning the 2006 Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
After squandering a 16-point lead and allowing the Rams to tie the game midway through the second half, Nevada used an 11-3 run during a five-minute stretch to build another cushion while No. 2 seed Colorado State (23-11) missed eight consecutive field goal attempts.
The Rams pulled to 66-65 when J.D. Paige hit a 3-pointer with 2:32 left, but they never managed to tie the score again.
Marcus Marshall added 21 points and was 12 of 15 from the free throw line down the stretch for Nevada, which went to the line 35 times to 11 for Colorado State.
Gian Clavell scored 30 points for Colorado State, which was seeking its first Mountain West title since 2003. Prentiss Nixon added 23 points, and Emmanuel Omogbo had 10.
It marked the eighth time the top two seeds met for the Mountain West title. The second seed won the previous seven matchups.
Colorado State: Clavell surpassed 1,000 career points. He came into the game needing 11 to reach the milestone.
Nevada: After struggling through their worst first half of the season, scoring a mere 21 points on 23 percent shooting in a semifinal win over Fresno State, the Wolf Pack have shot 42 of 79 (53 percent) from the field, including 15 of 47 (41 percent) from 3-point range, in their last three halves of basketball.
Colorado State: The Rams might be on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. If they don’t, they could receive an NIT bid.
Nevada: Will find out Sunday where it is headed in the NCAA Tournament.