SAN DIEGO (AP) - For a school without a lot of experience at it, San Diego State did OK celebrating its share of the Mountain West Conference basketball championship.
The No. 9 Aztecs beat Colorado State 66-48 on Saturday night to split the title with No. 3 BYU. Students rushed the court at the final buzzer, confetti rained onto the court and the players held up the trophy and then cut down the nets at Viejas Arena, which has been the place to be in San Diego during the Aztecs' breakout season.
``We are all very proud of this moment and the opportunity to say that we're champions,' coach Steve Fisher said. ``That's not trite, that's not a cliche, that's from the heart, from all of us. No matter how many games you win, winning a championship does not happen often, and we can say we've done that. It'll be with us forever. This is a special moment for all San Diego State, but in particular, our five seniors and our basketball team.'
This was the second conference title in 12 seasons under Fisher and the first for the current players.
``I could not be more proud of how they've handled themselves, how they've found ways to be successful, how they've done it with a smile on their face, and never with an agenda. That's why we've won,' Fisher said.
Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Aztecs (29-2, 14-2), who will be the No. 2 seed in the MWC tournament at Las Vegas. BYU will be No. 1 because of its two 13-point wins against the Aztecs.
SDSU got the chance to share the title when BYU lost to New Mexico by 18 points on Wednesday night, a day after forward Brandon Davies was kicked off the team for breaking the school's honor code.
``Before the season we all set goals as a team, and this is something we can check off on our checklist, winning the league championship,' senior guard D.J. Gay said. ``It's been a great season. It's been a magical one so far. But we know it's not over yet. We take this in and enjoy the moment, but tomorrow comes and it's on to the tournament.'
Another of the Aztecs' goals is to win a game in the NCAA tournament. They're winless in six trips, including three under Fisher. They won the MWC tournament last year and the league's automatic NCAA berth before losing to Tennessee.
Leonard, a sophomore forward, had his 21st double-double of the season and 38th of his career. He made nine of 10 free throws.
Andy Ogide scored 11 for Colorado State (19-11, 9-7), which lost for the fourth time in five games.
``They deserved to rush the court,' CSU coach Tim Miles said. ``I mean, the conference championship is pretty cool stuff. Coach Fisher and his staff have done a phenomenal job. They had confetti ready to roll and everything. Maybe someday we can get that going in Fort Collins.'
The Aztecs took control by scoring 10 straight points early in the second half, including two free throws and a jumper by Leonard, for a 37-29 lead. Billy White, Chase Tapley and Malcolm Thomas each made a basket during the run.
White, one of five seniors honored before the game, scored 13 points. Gay had a rough night, shooting 3 of 14 from the floor, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range, for seven points.
``They feed off turnovers and we turned over the ball too much,' Ogide said. ``That turns into points for them when you do things like that against a team like this and they are going to kill you.
``They're a really good team,' he added. ``They're athletic. They're a really great rebounding team. A lot of teams can't match up with them in those aspects. They had a great season and I'm sure they will do well in the NCAA tournament as well.'
SDSU jumped to an early 15-6 lead behind Leonard and Tapley before CSU went on a 13-0 run to take a 19-15 lead.
The Rams went ahead 27-23 on a free throw by Ogide and a 3-pointer by Wes Eikmeier with 3:41 before halftime.
CSU didn't score after that, and SDSU tied it at 27 with a jumper by Leonard and a turnaround jumper by White. They were the Aztecs' only field goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the half.
The Associated Press News Service
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