Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - Larry Nance Jr. led the way with 14 points and six rebounds as Wyoming narrowly defeated San Diego State 45-43 for the Mountain West Conference title on Saturday.
Josh Adams scored 10 points, while Derek Cooke Jr. provided seven points and seven boards for the fourth-seeded Cowboys (25-9), who will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
"I love the way these guys play," Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said. "They really came through, so I'm happy for them and equally proud of all of them and all of the team."
Malik Pope and J.J. O'Brien netted 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the second-seeded Aztecs (26-8), who tied a conference record with their eighth appearance in the Mountain West final.
"This is a very, very competitive league, and it was shown in the conference tournament," San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said. "Wyoming found ways to go back-to-back-to-back, and they are. So they're to be congratulated."
The Aztecs took a 41-40 lead with 1:36 to play after O'Brien went in for a layup and knocked down a pair of foul shots on the ensuing possession.
Adams countered with a left-wing trey to put the Cowboys up by two with 1:02 to go.
After empty possessions from each team, Aqeel Quinn missed a 3-pointer and Cooke was fouled after he pulled down the rebound with seven seconds left. Cooke knocked down both free throws to make it a two-possession game.
Quinn missed a corner 3, but Pope put the ball in with 0.4 to play. Wyoming had no problem with the inbounds and held on for the win.
Nance scored seven points as the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-2 lead, but the Aztecs came alive late in the first half. Pope and Matt Shrigley hit back-to- back triples to get them within three for a 28-25 game at halftime.
Neither team scored in the second half until Shrigley's trey tied the game at 28-apiece 3:56 in and Pope split a pair of free throws to give San Diego State its first lead of the game.
Wyoming missed eight straight baskets to start the second half, but Adams' step-back triple ended the drought and got it within 33-31 with 11:29 to play.
Cooke's three-point play put the Cowboys ahead and Riley Grabau split a pair of free throws for a 40-37 lead with 4:53 remaining.
The two teams also faced each other in the 2006 championship game, where SDSU won 69-64 in overtime ... The Cowboys will play in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time ... The Aztecs won both regular-season matchups ... Wyoming shot 35.7 percent from the field and limited San Diego State to 32.6 percent.