LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – Craig Smith still has not lost a Mountain West Tournament game, and the Aggies are going to get a shot at a 3-peat.
Neemias Queta had 18 points, 14 rebounds and a school-record nine blocked shots., as Utah State stymied Colorado State in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals, 62-50.
“That’s a heck of a win,” Smith said. “Colorado State has had a great season. They beat us the last time we played, and we had that on our minds. Our guys executed defensively, and we found just enough.”
Utah State (20-7) will try to win its third straight MWC Tournament title Saturday against San Diego State. The Aztecs knocked off Nevada in the other semifinal game, 77-70.
Justin Bean also had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, sinking three free throws and grabbing two rebounds in the last 46 seconds. Brock Miller hit three 3-pointers, and added 11 points for the Aggies.
But Queta’s defensive performance was the key to the win.
“He’s a difference-maker in every way, shape and form,” Smith said about his star center. “He’s an eraser without a doubt. Then on the offensive end, he has tremendous feel and knows how to play.”
Smith is 8-0 all-time in the Mountain West Tournament, including two championship game victories over the Aztecs.
Colorado State led the Mountain West in field goal percentage this season, but Utah State held the Rams to just 25.4 percent shooting and just 50 points.
Utah State closed the first half on a 6-0 run to take a 32-28 lead into the break. The Aggies dominated the first part of the second half, going on a 21-9 run to take a 53-37 lead on a three-pointer by Alphonso Anderson.
Colorado State got as close as seven, but Queta and the Aggies held the Rams scoreless over the final four minutes of the game.
“I thought we played a really good overall game and played really good defense on pretty much the whole team,” Queta said. “We held them to 25 percent from the field, so I feel like that speaks for itself. Against a team like that it really speaks volumes for how good our defense can become.”
Anderson finished with eight points, while Marco Anthony had seven. Isaiah Stevens led Colorado State with 15 points.
Utah State and San Diego State will play for the Mountain West Tournament title Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Aggies won both meetings against the Aztecs this season.
“It’s two heavyweights going at it,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to find a way to win. But what a great opportunity in front of us again. It should be a heck of a battle.”