Aztecs defeat Arizona State in tight affair, 65-63

Aztecs Matt Bradley

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Credit: SDSU Athletics

The San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team won a close affair with PAC-12 opponent Arizona State in a scrappy game.

The Aztecs came back from down nine points before holding off Arizona State, 65-63, on Thursday night in a packed Viejas Arena.

Arizona State’s Jamiya Neal missed a potential game-winning three-pointer with three seconds left after Trey Pulliam’s floater gave the Aztecs a 64-63 lead with a minute to go. The Aztecs weren’t brilliant by any means, making under 40% of their shots for their second straight game, less than 70% of their free throws, and under 30% from beyond the three-point line. However, four San Diego State players put up double digits, the Aztecs outrebounded the Sun Devils by a mark of 37-31, and most importantly, the stout Aztecs held off the Sun Devils for the final 1:43 of the game, and the Aztecs got a power five win.

The Aztecs got off to a strong start, leading by seven after the first four minutes, and they constantly led until the six-minute mark in the first half when Arizona State briefly took the lead. Despite the strong start, San Diego State went into the second half, trailing after not scoring for the final three minutes of the first half. In turn, a late three-pointer put the Sun Devils ahead by two.

Arizona State extended their lead as they scored the first six points of the second half, completing an 11-0 run that put the Sun Devils up by eight. The Aztecs struck back almost instantly, going on a 12-0 run that put them ahead by three but then scored just four points in the next five minutes as Arizona State tied it up. 

The two teams each scored 13 points over the next six minutes, meaning that the game was still tied with just two minutes to play. It was bold of the Aztecs to trust Pulliam late, as he was 0-for-4 from the floor on the night, but he put the Aztecs on top for good with a beautiful floater

The Aztecs rode big nights from sophomore Lamont Butler Jr., who dropped 14 points, and Nathan Mensah, who was one rebound shy of a double-double. Keshad Johnson also played well, putting up double-digit points for just the third time in his career.

Graduate transfer Matt Bradley struggled for the second straight game going 3-for-11 from the field, missing all four of his three-point tries, and getting just one assist. Bradley still put up 12 points, but his and Pulliam’s struggles were noted by head coach Brian Dutcher: “The point guards need to decide if they’re going to be point guards or scoring guards.”

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Arizona State rode a double-double from Kimani Lawrence and 16 points from Marreon Jackson but got just nine points from their bench, and Bobby Hurley used just nine players in the game. The Aztecs bench put up 15 points, including a pair of threes from Adam Seiko, which proved critical.

The Aztecs weren’t spectacular on Thursday night, but they won, which is what matters. Arizona State is a good basketball team despite the upset against UC Riverside, and the Aztecs will hope that the win becomes an important one come Selection Sunday. San Diego State still has a lot to figure out, but good defense and scrappy rebounding will win them a lot of games. 

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