Vilardo: Round 1 Mountain West Hoops Tournament Notes

The Second-Round matchups are set, with Colorado State, UNLV, and New Mexico advancing

Posted on March 9, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

In my Mountain West preview I predicted we could expect anything to happen and that there would certainly would be close games and a lot of fun.

Day One delivered on that.

Isaiah Stevens hit a running floater in the lane with 2.7 seconds to push 8-seed Colorado State past 9-seed Fresno State in the opener.

EJ Harkless scored a career-high 35 points in 7-seed UNLV’s overtime win over 10-seed Air Force, and 6-seed New Mexico prevailed over 11-seed Wyoming.

Here are my quick notes from the First-Round games.

8-seed Colorado State 67, 9-seed Fresno State 65
This one set the tone for the Mountain West.

The Rams built a lead and then went cold. Colorado State hung on despite only two made FGs in the last 7:47 of the game.

Fresno State was 9-10 from the FT line. The problem was Colorado State doubled them up on makes finishing 18-24 from the stripe.

The Bulldogs did not attempt a FT in the first half.

Drawing fouls was an issue all season for Fresno State, which was fouled on just 23.6% of possessions this season. It was even lower today at 22.4%, and ultimately their undoing.

7-seed UNLV 78, 10-seed Air Force 70 (OT)
Both teams struggled to find their shots at the start.

Air Force entered the game having committed a turnover on 23.8% of possessions, the ninth-highest rate in the nation during that time. They had 10 on 30 possessions in the first half of this one, yet they still were only down two at the break.

UNLV started to break free, but Air Force would respond at every turn. Jake Heidbreder did his best to keep the Falcons season alive with 22 points, nine rebounds, and an assist.

Ultimately it was EJ Harkless who was just too tough for the Rebels as he went for a season-high 35 points with six assists and four assists. UNLV improved to 6-0 all-time against Air Force in the Mountain West tournament.

6-seed New Mexico 87, 11-seed Wyoming 76
This one also featured a pair of teams that did not make things look pretty, but again close most of the way.

The Lobos opened 4-6 from the floor while Wyoming connected on just one of its first seven shots. Then the script was flipped and the Cowboys hit on four of their next seven while New Mexico went cold with a 1-7 spell of their own.

Hunter Maldonado did his part for Wyoming with 36 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

Jalen House came up big for the Lobos with 28 points, seven rebounds, and six assists while connecting on all 10 of his FTs.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—