San Diego State forward Kyle Spain, right, goes up for a shot as Wyoming forward Justin Williams defends during the first half. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
March 12, 2006
DENVER (AP) - Brandon Heath scored six of his 22 points in the final 1:08 of overtime to help San Diego State beat Wyoming 69-64 in the championship of the Mountain West Conference tournament Saturday night.
Kyle Spain, who missed a shot underneath that could have won it in regulation, sank three of four free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the Aztecs' second NCAA tournament berth under coach Steve Fisher.
The Cowboys (14-18) were close to heading to the postseason despite a losing record when they took a four-point lead with 2:18 left in overtime. But Heath, who missed 20 of 27 shots, suddenly found his touch.
His running 6-footer tied it at 62 with just over a minute left and his jumper off a sweet spin move put the Aztecs ahead 64-63 with 35 seconds remaining. Then, he sank two free throws with 19 seconds left to make it 66-63.
After Spain hit one of two free throws for a 67-64 lead, Wyoming's Steve Leven misfired on a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left and Spain got the ball, was fouled and made two more free throws with 1.8 seconds to play.
Cowboys guard Brad Jones (15 points) sent the game into overtime at 56 when he sank two free throws with 7 seconds left in regulation after tournament MVP Marcus Slaughter fouled out.
Slaughter finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Spain had 11 points and 12 boards.
Freshman Brandon Ewing scored 22 points to lead seventh-seeded Wyoming, which upset Air Force and Utah this week amid speculation that coach Steve McClain would be fired after the season.
The Cowboys used their superb inside game to hang with the heavily favored Aztecs, who shot just 28 percent overall and 17 percent from beyond the arc.
Playing in their first conference championship game since 1988, the Cowboys were hoping to become the first sub-.500 team to win the MWC tournament and also the seventh school in the league's 7-year history to cut down the nets.
Instead, the Aztecs became the first top seed to win the conference tournament since UNLV did it in 2000, and they avoided having to depend on an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Even though the Aztecs set a school record for victories in the Division I era at San Diego State and won their first regular-season conference crown since 1978, their RPI rating was hovering in the 60s, putting them squarely on the bubble without a win Saturday night.
Fisher also took the Aztecs to the NCAAs in 2002.