Aztecs and Huskies to battle in Vegas for Main Event championship

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

Game Details

Date: Sunday, November 19, 2023

Time: 7:00 pm PT

Channel: ESPN 2

Location: T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas, NV)

Records: SDSU 3-1, Washington 3-1

Fresh off a dominating second-half performance against the St. Mary’s Gaels on Friday night, the San Diego State Aztecs will take on the Washington Huskies for the championship of the Continental Tire Main Event on Sunday night. 

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

SDSU is now 6-1 all-time in the four regular-season multi-team events it has played in Las Vegas. The Aztecs won this same tournament the last time they appeared in it in 2019. 

After trailing 41-38 to the Gaels early in the second half, the Aztecs finished the game on a 41-13 run, showing off the potential of this year’s team on both ends of the court. 

Defensively, they held St. Mary’s, which averaged 79 points per game, to only 54 on 34% shooting. Offensively, the Aztecs shook off a sluggish start to the game to connect on 59% shooting from the field and 50% from beyond the arc in the second half. It was the perfect synergy that head coach Brian Dutcher always preaches, getting stops and running the floor for easy baskets. 

Jaedon LeDee’s start to the season has been exemplary, showcasing the skills that his coaches and teammates have spoken about over the past two years they see in practice but was not given the opportunity to fully reveal in games last year. LeDee is the first Aztec to start a season with four straight 20+ point games while drawing 36 fouls so far. 

He is averaging 25 points and nine rebounds per game while shooting 61% from the field in 34 minutes per night. His 14 offensive rebounds are double that of his next-highest teammate (seven by Miles Heide).

USC transfer Reese Waters has made his transition to SDSU basketball smoothly, just like his playing style. Waters flourished on Friday night, scoring 19 points while showcasing his full scoring repertoire from all three levels.     

The day off between games gives the Aztecs, who have been playing essentially a heavy seven-man rotation to start the season due to injuries, a vital day of rest, according to Dutcher. 

LeDee (36), Waters (32), and Parrish (31) all played over 30 minutes on Friday night, and the game against Washington will be the Aztecs’ third in six nights.  

The Huskies rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Xavier, 74-71, on Friday night. Keion Brooks, Jr., the top returner scorer in the Pac-12, led the Huskies with 20 points (8 rebs, 3 blocks), and Kentucky transfer Sahvir Wheeler added 18 (5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals). 

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The Huskies played a similar first half as the Aztecs did on Friday, shooting only 28% from the field and missing 11 of 12 three-point attempts. They came out of the gates in the second half to take a five-point lead by emphasizing higher-percentage shots in the paint, given their struggles beyond the arc (finished the game 3-of-16).

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

The Huskies play fast and attack the rim, evidenced by 58% of their shot attempts from the paint. The Aztecs struggled defending the Gaels in the paint in the first half, but that was a byproduct of their big men taking advantage of single coverage in the post. The Huskies’ paint attack is driven by drives from their wings and guards. Lockdown defender Lamont Butler, along with his teammates Darrion Trammell, Micah Parrish, and Reese Waters, will need to contain dribble penetration.

Neither the Huskies nor Muskateers shot over 40% from the field in the game, but both attempted more than 30 free throws, helping boost the scoring. 

A familiar name for Aztec fans on the Huskies is Koren Johnson, the class of 2022 recruit from Seattle who originally committed to SDSU before de-committing and signing with the Huskies. Johnson scored ten points in 25 minutes off the bench on Friday night. He was the only Huskie to play more than seven minutes off the bench as head coach Mike Hopkins went with a six-man rotation, with Brooks (38) and Wheeler (36) playing almost the entire game. 

One of the problem areas for the Aztecs early in the season had been rebounding, given the lack of height and size in the frontcourt. Against St. Mary’s size, the Aztecs were able to outrebound them 40-33 in the game, but nearly half (16) of the Gaels’ rebounds were on the offensive end. The Huskies grabbed 13 offensive rebounds against the Musketeers but were outrebounded 52-42 overall.

Washington’s lone loss this season came at home to Nevada, 83-76. 

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