Adam Seiko’s shooting surge propels the Aztecs to victory
The Aggies came into the night as the number one three-point shooting team in the country, with five players shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. The game was essentially decided from long-range to the Aztec advantage. SDSU decided to challenge them at their own game. They won the three-point shooting battle and the game 85-75.
“Credit to Utah State, we knew they weren’t going to go away quietly, and we know what’s in store for us in a couple weeks when we go back and play them at their place,” Coach Brian Dutcher said.
12 minutes into the game, SDSU was 5-for-8 from three, USU was 1-for-11. SDSU led the game, 28-11.
The lead was created because of an 18-0 surge due to Adam Seiko checking in. The scoring run ended up being insurmountable, and the difference maker in the Aggies hope of a comeback.
The Aztecs shot 12-for-22 from deep, but Seiko was the main contributor.
Seiko missed the latest game against the Falcons due to an illness. For the Aztec sake, he may need to get sick more often.
“He looked healthy and fresh, “so I said practice must be overrated, rest is more important,” Dutcher joked.
After shaking off the rust on a careless turnover when he checked in, he proceeded to knock down three consecutive shots from the top of the arc, all nothing but net. It did not stop there. He found an opening in the corner, swish.
Darrion Trammell missed a wide-open layup in transition; Seiko received the ball deep beyond the arc and decided to take a heat check; it was nothing but net. Seiko was 5-for-5 from three, and suddenly the Aztec lead ballooned. He ended up making seven consecutive threes before finally missing. He finished with a career-high 25 points.
“7-for-7, it felt like I was shooting into an ocean tonight,” Seiko said.
“It’s like you know he can do it, but when it’s happening, it’s alien-like,” Keshad Johnson said.
Stopping the Aggies from three-point range is crucial. They have shot a combined 32.3% from long range in their four losses. Tonight, they finished at 33.3%.
“They play similar to the Warriors, sometimes you have to live with a contested shot, they shot 33 threes, that’s kind of crazy,” Johnson said.
In the second half, the Aggies went back to the mean and got hot from beyond the arc. Every time that SDSU almost put the game away, USU would answer with a three-pointer.
Dutcher credited the Aggies’ halftime adjustments as they attacked the basket more and found open looks on the perimeter.
With 6:39 left in the second half, Dutcher called a timeout and was fuming at his team as the lead had shrunk to single digits. But the Aggies did not make another long ball until one minute left in the game.
They shot 7-for-13 in the second half.
The Aggies are led by Steven Ashworth, who has been sensational this season. He is averaging 15.7 points, 4.5 assists and is shooting 48.6% from three-point range. Ashworth continuously moves throughout an offensive set, he does most of his damage without the ball in his hands.
“He’s super difficult; he’s like Steph (Curry); he doesn’t stop running around the court,” Seiko said. “You got to be on high alert at all times.. for the most part; we pretty much had him locked down,”
The Aztecs hounded him and prevented him from even touching the ball. If he did receive the ball, there was an immediate hand in his face. In the first half, he attempted only two shots and missed them both. After 27 game minutes, he finally scored his first basket.
Coming into the night, Ashworth scored in single digits only twice this season; tonight was his third game as he finished with eight points.
After scoring a season-high and recording a double-double against Air Force, it was clear Johnson wanted to keep his momentum rolling. He ignited the Viejas Arena crowd in the opening minute, swatting a 7’1 Trevin Dorius where he somehow jumped higher than Dorius’s lengthy wingspan.
“That was insane; I haven’t seen a block like that… ever… Shawn Kemp like,” Seiko said. “We haven’t seen the highlight yet; I’m sure we’ll see it on ESPN.”
After the block, he proceeded to grab three offensive rebounds and score off two of them before the opening TV timeout. He continued to dominate the glass, fight for loose balls, and find open spots in the Utah State zone. He finished the game with another double-double, 11 points, and 10 rebounds (six offensive.)
“I just try to do my best to give it my all, and rebounding comes with effort, I try to be that hustle guy, that energetic guy,” Johnson said.
“He was just going to the glass, I told him about the two games against Utah State last year, we played at Utah State and didn’t get an offensive rebound,” Dutcher said. “I said I could lay in the middle of the floor, and one would bounce to me, and I would get an offensive rebound. “He had a nose for the ball, he found what path it was going, and he took it, so that was critical to our success tonight,”
The Aggies deny offensive rebounds at the 15th-best rate in the country. They start three players over 6’8. In order to deny the Aztec three-ball, they switched to a 3-2 zone, which resulted in multiple offensive rebound put-backs for SDSU. The Aztecs finished with 13 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.
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The Aztecs have one of the oldest teams in the nation. Three players have been a part of two losses in the Mountain West championship to USU. The Aggies have won four of the last six games. It was clear that this game meant a little extra to the Aztecs. In the first half, both teams and players exchanged words after Jaedon LeDee dunked over multiple Utah State players.
“We had so many battles with them the past four years; we know what it is; it’s going to be a dog fight, whether it’s here or there,” Seiko said.
After tonight’s game, the Aggies remain winless in Viejas Arena.
The Aztecs will get a slight break from their difficult stretch of games with a meeting against San Jose State on Saturday night. But the Spartans still stand at 4-4 in conference play.
Class of 2022 at San Diego State University. Communication major and pursuing a sports journalism profession. Season ticket holder of the SDSU MBB team since 2011. Fondest memory of Viejas Arena is Aztec legend, Dwayne Polee sparking a 19-1 run over New Mexico to win the MW Conference in 2014.