AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Nick Welch scored 17 points and Air Force used its stifling defense to shut down San Diego State 62-49 on Monday night, clinching its first-ever conference title.
Air Force (21-5, 11-2 Mountain West Conference) had never before finished higher than sixth place, when it was in the Western Athletic Conference.
Air Force held San Diego State's Brandon Heath scoreless and allowed Chris Walton just two points. Heath went into the game averaging 14.5 points and Walton was averaging 8.8.
Air Force had a 19-10 turnover advantage over San Diego State (14-14, 5-8).
Joel Gerlach had 14 points for Air Force. Tim Keller and Antoine Hood each scored 12.
Aerick Sanders had 15 points for San Diego State and Wesley Stokes added 13.
Air Force led 25-20 at halftime but hit 3-pointers in consecutive possessions by Keller and Welch to take a 31-20 led.
UNLV 78, NEW MEXICO 75: At Albuquerque, N.M., Odartey Blankson scored 11 straight points late in the second half and finished with a career-high 28 in UNLV's win over New Mexico.
Blankson's scoring spree over a period of less than three minutes put the Rebels (16-10, 7-6 MWC) over the top in the up-tempo game that saw the two teams combine for 18 3-pointers while putting up 125 shots.
UNLV held off New Mexico (14-12, 5-8) behind point guard Jerel Blassingame's five straight points inside of two minutes and Demetrius Hunter's two free throws with 17.9 seconds left.
Hunter's free throws, which followed an off-balance 3-pointer by New Mexico's Javin Tindall with 18.7 seconds left, were the last points of the game. New Mexico put up three 3-pointers in the final seconds, but all missed.
Troy DeVries' 3 rimmed out, and teammate Danny Granger rebounded the miss and passed it to an open Tindall at the top of the key. Tindall's 3-pointer also rimmed out, but again Granger got the rebound. With only a couple of seconds left, Granger dribbled out to behind the arc and put a 3 at the buzzer that sailed long.
Granger led New Mexico with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Tindall added 17 points and a career-high 5 steals.
New Mexico took a 64-62 lead after Rebels center J.K. Edwards fouled out with 5:56 left and the UNLV bench was assessed a technical foul for protesting the call. Tindall hit one of the two technical foul shots and Granger, who was fouled by Edwards, hit both of his free throws.
Blankson, who had given UNLV a 62-61 lead with a basket moments earlier, then took over. He hit a 15-footer, a layup, a 3-pointer and another 15-footer for a 71-68 UNLV lead with 3:41 remaining.
After Tindall's late 3-pointer got New Mexico within 76-75, Hunter was fouled on the inbound play. He swished through both free throws, his only points of the game.