Aztecs come back to beat UC Irvine 63-62 in thrilling finish

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Spoirts

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Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs have done it! Is there anything better than college basketball?

The Aztecs stormed back down five points with less than a minute remaining and defeated UC Irvine by just one point. Micah Parrish’s and-one finish gave SDSU the lead with 10 seconds remaining. They would hold on for the win in stunning fashion.

The Aztecs avoided what would have been a horrible loss at home, but they kept the streak alive with ten straight home victories.

“I wanted to win,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “It was exciting and we won. I tell the kids the same thing every year and that is we will play 15 more games just like this. We have to find enough plays to win and we did.”

New SDSU head football coach Sean Lewis was in attendance for Saturday night’s game. He addressed the fans at the half, and it was clear he had lost his voice from all the active recruiting he and his staff had been doing since his arrival to San Diego.

The news pregame was that star forward Jaedon LeDee did not suit up for this contest. The Aztecs leading scorer at 22.8 points per game missed his first game of the season. It was a smart decision to not play the star forward as the Anteaters front court was not very good.

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Dutcher decided to insert Miles Heide into the starting lineup to replace LeDee. That decision was an interesting one, but a smart one as the idea was to keep guard Darrion Trammell with the second unit.

“Miles was good,” Ducther said when asked about (Heide’s) performance. “Last year I had fifth year (Nathen) Mensah and fifth year (Aguek) Arop and this year I have true freshman Heide and true somephore Elijah Saunders starting on the backline. That is college basketball, that is the beauty of it. We got new guys out there and they got tested and played well under pressure.”

UCI’s Justin Hohn started the game by draining his first three shots, and Dutcher already saw enough. He called a timeout two minutes into the game to try and slow Hohn down and saw some issues with his defense.

“We were supposed to be switching 1-4 ball screens and we missed three switches,” Dutcher said. “I think they had 10 points in the first two minutes and 24 at the end of the half. I thought (the timeout) was timely and I felt I should call it at that time.”

That timeout worked. Down early, SDSU got back in the game and trimmed the Anteaters lead to just one at the first TV timeout.

Then, Jay Pal gave the Aztecs their first lead (13-11) after draining a wide-open three. SDSU started the game going 4-4 from deep.

Dutcher’s squad got into foul trouble midway through the first half as Irvine reached the bonus with just under eight minutes to go. Three players had two fouls, and Dutcher was forced to make constant changes. (Four players ended the half with multiple fouls).

In unexpected fashion, Pal’s minutes off the bench were big in the first half. He gave the Aztecs eight quick points on 3-4 shooting and nailed two shots from beyond the arc.

Pal and the Aztecs finished the first half strong. Pal and Micah Parrish led the team with eight points.

San Diego State led 33-24 at the break.

The second half started with a lot of emotion from both teams. Parrish and Hohn got into it multiple times, forcing the referees to call a double technical foul on both players. A tech in college hoops results in a foul, and as a result, Hohn reached four fouls early in the second half as he was called for a blocking foul on the very next possession. Hohn started the game by draining three straight shots and remained with eight points to that point.

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

The Aztecs reached a 16-point advantage with just under 17 minutes remaining. Then, UCI stormed back. They cut the lead to just five thanks to a 6-0 run during the middle of the half.

SDSU couldn’t stop fouling and, again, had seven early fouls with 12 minutes remaining in the game. The Anteaters were in the bonus the rest of the way through.

A 9-0 by UCI gave them the lead again for the first time since the beginning of the contest. The Aztecs had a tough stretch where they didn’t score for five minutes as crunch time was approaching. They went over 13 minutes without an FG during that stretch.

However, they found a way to get then job done. They were playing poorly on both sides of the floor, but the defense stepped up, and the players made shots when it counted.

SDSU is very lucky they didn’t lose their second consecutive game.

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The next game for the Aztecs is in nine days, as they host St. Katherine University on Tuesday, Dec 19.

News & Stats

  • Pal led the team with 15 points off the bench and also grabbed four rebounds.
  • Parrish ended with 14/5/3
  • Waters ended with a double-double – 11 points and 12 boards. His ability to rebound was massive for the Aztecs.

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