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New Mexico claims Mountain West crown

Mar 11, 2012 - 5:55 AM Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) - Tony Snell and Kendall Williams scored 14 points apiece and New Mexico won the Mountain West championship with a 68-59 victory over No. 18 San Diego State on Saturday.

Drew Gordon added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Lobos (27-6), who captured their first conference tournament title since 2005.

"Can't even explain how it feels right now," said Snell. "Like a dream come true."

San Diego State (26-7) was led by Chase Tapley's game-high 25 points and 16 from Jamaal Franklin.

The top-seeded Aztecs failed to become the first team to win three straight MWC tournaments, but have little to worry about in their bid to make the NCAA Tournament again.

They should receive an at-large big into the NCAAs Sunday when the brackets are announced.

"We know what it feels like to be where they are right now -- still on that court celebrating," said SDSU coach Steve Fisher. "That's where we expected to be, which is why it hurts when you're not. And yet the reality of it is we're not and they are."

New Mexico and San Diego State shared the regular season conference title, but SDSU got the No. 1 seed because of a tiebreaker. The teams split two regular season games.

Saturday, the Lobos came out on top despite shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor. They made eight three-pointers and held SDSU to 37.1 percent shooting.

"I thought that we at times played too fast, did ourselves in a little bit," said Fisher. "New Mexico probably had something to do with that also."

New Mexico opened the game on a 15-4 run and never trailed. Snell scored the game's first five points and hit a three-pointer to cap the burst six minutes into the half.

It took SDSU more than 10 minutes to reach double digits on a Franklin dunk that made it 18-10. The Aztecs trailed 34-23 at the break and were quickly down by 16 after New Mexico opened the second half on a Gordon dunk and Hugh Greenwood three-pointer.

Later, the Lobos pushed their lead as high as 17 when Phillip McDonald's layup made it 53-36.

Tapley provided a late-game spark for the Aztecs, knocking down a three from well behind the line on the left side despite being fouled. He missed the free throw, but Franklin's put-back got SDSU within 61-55 with 1:38 left.

New Mexico made enough free throws down the stretch to hang on.

Lobos coach Steve Alford said he thinks his team has been under appreciated all season long.

"Much has been asked of them. Now they sit ... here getting ready for the NCAA tournament next week at 27-6 (with) league, tournament championships," said Alford. "They've done unbelievable things this year and I'm very proud of them."

Game Notes

The Aztecs have played in a record four straight MWC tournament finals...New Mexico beat Utah for its title in 2005.