San Diego State’s bubble didn’t pop Thursday but the Aztecs were sure leaking air at too high a rate.

To put it bluntly, the Aztecs are lucky to still be a part of the Mountain West Conference postseason tournament after a lackluster 72-71 victory over Colorado State on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Even more bluntly, the wrong team won this game: The Rams deserved to win the quarterfinal matchup, not a San Diego State team that nearly waved good-bye to a possible NCAA tournament bid.

Obviously, an unimpressive victory is much better than a loss when your NCAA fate hangs in the balance – ask Memphis about that after the Tigers lost to seventh-seeded Houston earlier Thursday in the Conference USA tournament. But this wasn’t the type of performance to be proud of and the Aztecs (23-8) will need to play significantly better in Friday’s semifinals against eighth-ranked New Mexico (29-3).

Particularly since a win over the Lobos should clinch an NCAA tournament bid. The key word being SHOULD. You may recall San Diego State advanced to the conference tournament title game last season and was bypassed by the NCAA selection committee after a two-point loss to Utah.

Colorado State (16-15) was 0-8 during the regular season against the Mountain West’s top four teams – New Mexico, Brigham Young, UNLV and San Diego State – and lost those contests by an average of 19.3 points. Factor in that the Rams played the final two-thirds of Thursday’s game without leading scorer Andy Ogide, who was ejected, and a one-point San Diego State win feels even less impressive.

The Aztecs won the game with two free throws by D.J. Gay with 23.6 seconds left and got the break they needed when Colorado State point guard Dorian Green fired the ball out-of-bounds with 6.7 seconds to play. The Rams had one other chance after Chase Tapley missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 5.6 seconds left but weren’t able to get in position for a quality shot and Travis Busch’s desperation heave was well off the mark.

Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and Tapley all scored 15 points for the Aztecs, while Kawhi Leonard had 12 points and six rebounds before fouling out. Adam Nigon scored a game-high 18 for Colorado State. Nigon knocked down four 3-point baskets as the Rams shot 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from 3-point range.

Colorado State didn’t fold after Ogide was ejected for throwing an elbow that connected with the jaw of San Diego State’s Brian Carlwell after Ogide collected a rebound. Perhaps a technical was more in order than an ejection but you can’t say the Rams lost because they didn’t have Ogide. They were down eight points at halftime and outplayed the Aztecs for most of the second half without Ogide.

Colorado State coach Tim Miles made some nice in-game adjustments and the Rams actually outrebounded the Aztecs (28-26) despite having to go with a smaller lineup.

In fact, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher was right on the mark with his opening postgame comments.

“I told Tim Miles after the game, I said, ‘We got lucky. Your team deserved to win. Our team did not deserve to lose, but your team played with a fervor that I know you liked to see,’ ” Fisher said.

Now it remains to be seen whether the Aztecs will play with some “fervor” against New Mexico. There shouldn’t be any doubt that San Diego State is deserving of an NCAA tournament bid if it beats the Lobos on Friday night.

But for sure, the Aztecs need to patch up those leaks. That bubble of theirs has a few dents in it after the uninspiring performance against Colorado State.


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