3 Keys for an Aztec victory over San Jose State

Paul Garrison/ EVT Sports

Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

1. Either find the second scorer or ensure everyone contributes

In San Diego State’s 65-63 victory over Nevada, Matt Bradley continued his hot streak of recording 25-plus points in back-to-back games. The senior is executing how Brian Dutcher and his coaching staff envisioned him in their offensive scheme.

“Matt Bradley’s comfort level is way higher than it was at the start of the year,” said Coach Dutcher in the Nevada post-game presser. “He’s dribbling less and is more efficient at getting the shots he’s getting. Matt was sensational tonight, and we need him to be [going forward].”

Bradley owns seven 20-plus point games this season, four of which occurred during conference play, but no one else has stepped up as the second scorer. Dutcher acknowledged it might take a committee of role players pitching in points to complement Bradley’s efforts.

The disparity between Matt Bradley and the next scorer is a canyon. Mitchell leads all scorers with an average of 17.1 points per game, but Lamont Butler, who missed seven games, is second with nine points per game. In their Nevada win, Trey Pulliam was the next leading scorer at nine points among the team’s myriad of single-digit performances but has been silent as of late, scoring a combined seven points in the three prior games.

In the Brian Dutcher era, San Diego State has had consistent duos that would each produce an average of 12-plus points per game:

  • 2020-2021: Matt Mitchell (15.4 ppg) and Jordan Schakel (14.4 ppg)
  • 2019-2020: Malachi Flynn (17.6 ppg) and Matt Mitchell (12.2 ppg)
  • 2018-2019: Devin Watson (16.0 ppg) and Jalen McDaniels (15.9 ppg)
  • 2017-2018: Malik Pope (12.8 ppg) and Devin Watson (12.2 ppg)

“My teammates trust me,” stated Matt Mitchell to media on Tuesday. “They know if I have an opportunity to score, ill take it, but they know I can find the open man. I’m not searching to find my shot. ”

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Bradley is getting the looks he wants but distributes the ball when possible. Against San Jose State, if no one is able to shine along with him, then a handful of role players must contribute accordingly to walk out victorious.

2. Defend the threes from Tim Miles’ Myron Amey

San Jose State is one of the toughest jobs to recruit because there’s no history of winning in Silicon Valley. The Spartans only have one season above .500 this century, a 17-16 performance during 2010-2011.

Tim Miles, one-time Nebraska and Colorado State coach is in his first year back in the Mountain West. A youthful roster followed him to San Jose, which includes underclassmen transfers from Ohio State, Arizona, Ole Miss, and South Carolina. Notably, the Gamecock transfer is Trey Anderson, who graduated from Chula VIsta’s Mater Dei High in 2018. However, in the flurry of staff transitions, the Spartans returned only three seniors from the previous staff, and only junior guard Omari Moore started games prior.

This season SJSU averages 66.0 points per game, ranked ninth in the conference. Much of their production comes from their league-leading made three-pointers at an average of 9.3 per game. Omari Moore provides most of the points, averaging 13.2 points per game with four 15-plus point games in Mountain West play.

Of the newcomers, Myron Amey, a 6-foot-5 guard listed at 178-lbs, might be a problem for Aztec scouts and players. The freshman guard received no other scholarship offers according to recruiting services but provides the Spartans an additional offensive spark. Amey earned Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors in early January after recording 32 points, seven rebounds, and three assists against Bethesda University.

Though not a listed starter, his minutes have increased during league play as Miles looks to his young Spartans for extra help scoring. In their loss to Boise State, Amey shot 9-of-13 from the field and scored 24 points in 27 minutes, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The bright side for San Diego State is that Amey is a streaky shooter. Mountain West defenses kept him scoreless in three games and limited his shot attempts to under 10 in all but three games. San Diego State cannot afford to allow this freshman to excel from downtown.

Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

For the SDSU defenders, they must follow through on transition defense and deny him space for off-ball movement. This would force Omari Moore to provide the sole offensive output once again.

3. Beat the team you’re supposed to beat

The Aztecs need to edge out a victory on the road without breaking a sweat.

In true away games, San Diego State has not secured a league win since they defeated UNLV on New Year’s Day at the Thomas & Mack Center. Their last two trips resulted in losses at elevation to Utah State and Colorado State. This next game at San Jose State presents the San Diego-based team with an opportunity to snatch a victory without losing their hair in the game’s final moments.

Going head-to-head, San Jose State allows opponents to score an average of 72.3 points per game, the third-highest in average in the Mountain West, and owns the league’s worst scoring margin at -6.4 points. In their conference away games, Dutcher’s crew has not scored above 62 points, two points under their team average of 64.3 points per game. In their games against the bottom third of the conference (UNLV, New Mexico, Nevada), they averaged an improved 69.8 points per game.


“We have to make shots,” said Coach Dutcher, critiquing his team’s performance against Colorado State. “We missed 17 layups. We have to make layups before threes and finish around the basket.”

Easy buckets will allow the Aztecs to impose their will and inspire confidence throughout the roster. The boys from Montezuma Mesa have the edge in experience over a motley crew that is still learning to gel together. They must secure this away game before the schedule gets difficult, and they are sent to compete at Fresno State, Boise State, Nevada, and Wyoming.

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Erwin Mendoza
Erwin Mendoza grew up a SoCal kid, but now is raising a family in the Pacific Northwest. Besides covering San Diego State basketball, he loves lamenting the lack of sports championships from San Diego — minor league teams don’t count— while drinking the local stout on nitro.
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