Aztecs advance to MW final with 64-49 win over San Jose State

Matt Bradley attempts a layup against San Jose State. (Nicole Noel/EVT)

Nathan Mensah shoots against San Jose State. (Nicole Noel/EVT)

Due to scheduling adjustments this season, the San Diego State men’s basketball team only played the San Jose State Spartans once this season.

It came in Viejas Arena on Jan. 28, and SDSU dominated SJSU 71-58 behind a 16-point performance from Keshad Johnson. Omari Moore and Robert Vaihola combined for 23 points that game, but the team shot an ice-cold 21% beyond the arc.

The Spartans got the rematch they were looking for tonight, coming on a neutral court.

“You look at a team and play them on their court….you kind of judge a little bit,” Sage Tolbert said about the Aztecs yesterday. “When they don’t come to our court to play, it is hard to tell what type of team they are. Playing them on a neutral court…we are going to really see who they are.”

Tolbert saw firsthand what SDSU was made of. The Red and Black moved on to the finals with a 64-49 victory over SJSU in a contest that was strikingly similar to the team’s first meeting. 

Darrion Trammell, who had zero points against CSU yesterday, got the first five points for the Aztecs. Two points on a jumper and three points off free throws.

The Spartans, who are ranked #216 in three-point percentage according to Kenpoem, got the first six points off two three-pointers—one by Moore and one by Trey Anderson.

After a timeout, Jaedon Ledee and Adam Seiko subbed in, and momentum swung in SDSU’s direction. The Aztecs went on a 7-0 run before Ibrahima Diallo’s lay-up ended it.

During that time, the SDSU defense was ruthless on the perimeter and forced the Spartans to take and miss five threes.

SDSU continued to dominate offensively after SJSU’s Tibet Görener put in a dunk at the 8:13 mark. The Aztecs went on a 9-0 run until the 2:40 mark to take a 25-12 lead.

The crowd at the arena was very pro-Aztec. (Nicole Noel/EVT)

With 2:39 left, Görener’s three halted SDSU’s momentum, but on the Spartans’ next offensive possession, they turned it over, and Micah Parrish took it to the house with a dunk, erupting the Aztec faithful inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

Trammell ended the first half with a three but landed awkwardly on the defender guarding him and started to limp going into the dressing room. The Aztecs led 33-20 at the break.

Görener had a team-leading 10 points in the first half for the Spartans, while Parrish and Trammell combined for 17 of the Aztecs’ 33 points on five-for-eight shooting.

SDSU led in points in the paint 14-6, but rebounding was basically even. The Aztecs had 19 rebounds, and SJSU had 17.

The Spartans were below 30% in field goal percentage and three-point percentage in the first half, while SDSU was 43% in the field and beyond the arc.

After SDSU’s halftime warm-ups, Trammell, who had a wrap on his left calf, went to talk to one of the referees.

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“I was telling him about my leg, and I felt a lot of my shots I was not able to land,” Trammell said postgame. “I just had to let him know that I’m not trying to flop or anything.”

At the start of the second half, SJSU’s Alvaro Cardenas was called for a foul beyond the arc on Trammell. He went to the line and made two-of-three free throws.

The Aztecs kept a comfortable lead the first 10 minutes of the second half, and a Jaedon Ledee lay-up at the 12:43 mark gave SDSU their largest lead of the game to that point, 19.

After the Spartans went on a 6-0 run from 8:08 to 6:21, Butler gave SDSU the momentum back with a three to make it 56-42.

SDSU did not let SJSU get much closer and moved on to the finals with a 64-49 win.

“All these guys will tell you, when you come to San Diego State, if you don’t like playing defense, don’t come to the program,” head coach Brian Dutcher said postgame. “We played hard on defense and the defense won us the game tonight.”

Keshad Johnson had 15 points on Friday. (Nicole Noel/EVT)

The Spartans had a very reliable bench that got them 22 bench points, while the team had two more points in the paint than SDSU.

SJSU outrebounded the Aztecs 39-32, despite the loss, but got no fast break points. The Red and Black had ten fast break points.

Trammell and Keshad Johnson scored 15 each and combined for ten field goals on 14 attempts.

Johnson talked about how the team is feeling after back-to-back wins and what they need to do tomorrow.

“We are just locked in, you know, it’s kind of hard to play three games in three back-to-back days,” Johnson said postgame. “We are going to go back to the drawing board. Trying to get the job done tomorrow.” 

The Aztecs play either Boise State or Utah State tomorrow in the Mountain West Championship game at 3:00 P.M.

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