LAS VEGAS ( Daily Aztec ) - PANDEMONIUM!
San Diego State men's basketball came back from a six-point second-half deficit to defeat the University of New Mexico 82-75 in the Mountain West tournament championship game at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"Congratulations to my Aztecs," head coach Brian Dutcher said. "We're grateful to be moving on to the NCAA Tournament after suffering disappointments in the conference tournament in the past."
Senior guard Trey Kell played hero-ball, scoring 21 of his career-high 28 points in a blistering second half which helped send the Aztecs back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
"We came in wanting to win three, and we just needed one more tonight," Kell said. "I tried to do whatever I could to make sure that happened. And I'm glad we came out on top."
The Aztecs came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed, and defeated No. 4 Fresno State University and No. 1 University of Nevada to make it to tonight's championship game.
SDSU found itself in a six-point hole with 7:39 to play, before going on a 9-0 run to take the lead for good at 66-63 with 6:19 left.
The run was punctuated by a four-point play by junior forward Max Montana, who was fouled as he swished his first three-pointer of the contest.
"I told (Montana) that I thought he was going to do something special in this tournament," Dutcher said. "He hit the big corner three and got fouled, attacked the offensive glass, and he had his moment."
Kell appeared to injure his shin with 8:34 to play, but the Aztecs senior co-captain said there was no way he was coming out of the game with the team trailing.
"I felt like I was rolling at the moment. And I saw that we were down by about six," Kell said. "So for me, coming out because of an injury wasn't an option. I didn't want to go home. It was just as simple as that."