Colorado St.-San Diego St. Preview

Top-seeded San Diego State is happy to still be alive in the

Mountain West Conference tournament.

Coming off a last-second victory in their tournament opener, the

No. 18 Aztecs could face another stiff challenge Friday night

against surging Colorado State in a semifinal matchup in Las

Vegas.

San Diego State’s quest for a third straight MWC tournament

title was almost derailed Thursday before conference player of the

year Jamaal Franklin’s off-balance 3-pointer over a double team at

the buzzer gave the Aztecs a 65-62 quarterfinal victory over

eighth-seeded Boise State.

“(Thursday’s game is) indicative of how close the level is in

our league,” coach Steve Fisher said. “This is an outstanding

basketball league. I’m excited we’re moving on. We feel fortunate

we’re moving on. We feel good about our team and we will be ready

to play (Friday).”

The Aztecs (25-6) will need to be against a Colorado State squad

that hopes it has done enough to make the NCAA tournament for the

first time since 2003. The fourth-seeded Rams (20-10) used an early

15-4 run Thursday to snap a four-game MWC tournament skid with an

81-60 victory over TCU.

“We know how important the conference tournament is,” Rams coach

Tim Miles said. “We came here with one goal and one goal only, and

that’s to win this tournament.”

Colorado State snapped a nine-game losing streak to San Diego

State with a 77-60 home win Jan. 28. The Aztecs got their revenge

with a 77-64 victory over the Rams on Feb. 25, when Franklin had 31

points with 16 rebounds.

San Diego State has won 17 of 20 overall against Colorado State,

including 72-71 in the quarterfinals of the 2010 MWC

tournament.

“San Diego State is a great team,” Miles said. “They find ways

to win, but we’ve got a really competitive bunch of kids. I think

it will be a fun game.”

Franklin, who averaged a league-leading 17.1 points along with

8.0 rebounds per game in the regular season, totaled 55 points and

26 boards in the two meetings with the Rams. The sophomore guard

went 6 of 10 from the field to finish with 19 points Thursday,

adding to an already stellar season with his game-winning shot.

“Jamal is turning into an extremely talented, confident

basketball player,” Fisher said of Franklin, who has averaged 25.8

points in his last four games.

Franklin’s confidence obviously came in handy Thursday for the

Aztecs, who led by as many as 11 with 6:43 to play but then

squandered an eight-point lead over the final three minutes.

Guard Chase Tapley scored a game-high 20 points to help San

Diego State win for the eighth time in its last nine games at the

Thomas & Mack Center.

Colorado State had a much easier afternoon. Pierce Hornung had

16 points and 14 rebounds while Wes Eikmeier scored 15 as the Rams

went 30 of 57 (52.6 percent) from the field and outrebounded TCU

38-27 for their first MWC tournament win since beating Wyoming

68-63 in 2008, and their first semifinal appearance since 2007.

Eikmeier has totaled 33 points despite shooting 10 of 33 in the

two games versus San Diego State this season.

The Rams are trying to return to the MWC finals for the first

time since 2003, when they won the tournament in their initial

championship game appearance.