LAS VEGAS – From start to finish, they were the better team.

Starting with a 15-3 run in the first five minutes of the game was what seventh-seeded San Diego State needed to keep No. 2 New Mexico at bay. The Aztecs won 67-56 and never trailed to advance to the Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship semifinal round.

Both teams are home to four different double-digit scorers, so the team better able to keep those scorers at bay was more likely to have an advantage. For the most part, San Diego State was able to do that part better. Just two Lobos scored more than 10, Nyah Wilson leading the way with 22 points.

With two teams so similar to each other in that way, though, you’ve got to find other ways to win. For the Aztecs, a big part of it was their rebounding, which they did better than New Mexico by quite a large margin (45-25). Kim Villalobos contributed a game-high 14 on the night to go with 12 points.

“It was just toughness. This team has decided they’re going to play for each other and play hard, and we’re playing at a high level because we’re just playing hard,” Coach Stacie Terry-Huston said. “The bench is into it. The coaches are locked in and the staff is putting together great game plans.”

New Mexico closed the early gap, getting to within three with eight minutes to go in the first half. But San Diego State widened it back up to 11 at the break. That margin would fluctuate slightly the whole second half, but New Mexico couldn’t cut the deficit to anything less than nine points down the stretch.

But there were times it seemed the Lobos would go on a run. Some charges were called against the Aztecs and other mistakes stacked up against them.

While limiting those things is crucial, the real key for the Aztecs was to keep the belief in each other.

“(We just had to) trust what we’ve put into the game, trust how far we’ve come,” Villalobos said. “It’s the quarterfinal, so just understanding that and it’s a 40-minute game, anything can happen. Just really staying poised in those moments and just trying to get the win.”

As rivals, San Diego State wasn’t elated with the way they’d finished the regular season, particularly its 66-63 loss at The Pit just a couple of weeks ago.

“We were tied with I think three or four teams (in the conference standings), so being seventh, we definitely want to win the championship,” Villalobos said. “I feel like we are that team that can do it. Everyone in the locker room believes the same thing. We always have a chip on our shoulder, but we have everything we need in the locker room.”

Which is why the win was that much sweeter, especially given some of the rough patches the team has gone through during the conference portion of the season, according to Terry-Hutson.

“I’m excited for my girls to continue to play,” Terry-Hutson said. “I was talking to my staff and only us in our circle, in our administration, understand all the adversity that we’ve been through this year, so for them to have some success and be locked in is just really fun to watch.”

The Aztecs will play the winner of No. 3 Wyoming and No. 6 Boise State on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. PT.