Aztecs defeat Cal State Fullerton 83-57 in season opener

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

Viejas Arena – San Diego State University

The San Diego State men’s basketball team entered the 2023-24 season with a ton of expectations. The No. 17 team in the country hosted a Southern California opponent for an early season battle that saw them seek early success.

Monday night marked the 35th-straight win against Big West opponents and 14th consecutive season opener victory at Viejas Arena.

This game was memorable for not just this team but last year’s team as well. SDSU raised the banners from last season, and the fans were ecstatic to see the very first Final Four banner up in the rafters.

Head coach Brian Dutcher issued the same lineup as he did in the opening scrimmage as Darrion Trammell remained out with an injury.

“If we had been playing for the National Championship tonight,” Ducther said. “Darrion would have been out there.”

However, it’s a long season ahead. SDSU lit the fuse for what could be another electric season.

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

The Aztecs stormed out the gates Monday night. They started the game on a 14-0 run that saw Jaedon LeDee and Elijah Saunders combine for 11 of those points. LeDee was fed all night long and was the star of the show.

Micah Parrish recorded two early fouls, and Miles Byrd replaced him, and Byrd earned a quick steal. Parrish would excel in a big way when he returned to the floor, finishing the game 5-6 from deep and tying a career-high in three-pointers made.

“I don’t think I’m a shooter,” Parrish said. “I’m a basketball player. Everyone can say I’m a shooter but I don’t think I’m a shooter. I just have to believe in myself.”

After the quick start, SDSU slowed down a ton. The Aztecs had a long scoring drought that saw the 14-0 lead cut in half halfway through the action.

The Titans quickly got themselves back into the game, reducing the 14-point lead to five. Nobody really put it on themselves, as it was a collective effort by Fullerton. One thing is for sure: nobody saw that coming.

Jay Pal tried to put an end to that Titans’ run with an and-one finish at the rim for his first points as an Aztec. A shove by Titans’ forward Beril Kabamba after the play got the intensity back into the mix for the Aztecs. The fans were as loud as they were all night after that exchange.

The lead was back up to 10 at 32-22. However, Fullerton would not go away. They kept fighting and cut the lead to as low as two points right before the half.

That 2-point lead would stand as the half ended. SDSU led 37-35 at the break.

LeDee led the team with 13 points with four rebounds. Once again, LeDee attacked the rim and drew seven fouls in the first half. Max Jones led Fullerton with 11 points on 4-14 shooting.

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

The story of the first half was the lack of rebounding from the Aztecs. Fullerton finished with 11 total offensive rebounds in the half as SDSU had trouble getting possession. The Aztecs grabbed just four offensive rebounds and were out-rebounded 27-19.

San Diego State needed a huge second half to get back in control.

Boy, did they get it.

SDSU stormed out the gates once again and started the second half on a 17-5 run. LeDee put on a show to start the half with a slam dunk three-point play and had a huge block to save points at the rim. What can’t he do? He even made his first career three-pointer in the win.

The defense came alive to start the second half. SDSU forced three quick turnovers and capitalized on all three. Lamont Butler was more aggressive as well. He got called for a charge but was attacking the rim in much more of a fashion. Butler ended the night with a game-high seven assists.

These plays by the Aztecs are what SDSU Basketball is all about. Grit and Grind. They establish themselves on the defensive end, and the Titans really struggled to score in the second half. They were held to just 17 points 12 minutes into the half.

SDSU ran away with the game. They were making plays on both sides of the floor, and there was nothing more that the Titans could do. A massive second half from the Aztecs gives this team a ton of motivation heading into the season.

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The final score was an indication of what this team will be about this season. Setting the tone.

“This year I have to set the tone,” Parrish said. “Being vocal on defense. I kinda let my team down early with those two fouls but I was trying to be aggressive and set the tone.”

Setting the tone is something you will hear a lot this campaign. The Aztecs will try to suffocate their opponents early on with their strong defense, and from there, SDSU has the advantage.

This was an impressive win for Dutcher’s new squad.

“You are learning as they go,” Dutcher said. “The key to any season is winning while you learn. If that can happen, then it is a lot of fun. We learned lessons and we won. But, we are going to learn lessons and lose at some point. It’s what you do with those lessons that is the first step in the journey. I’m happy with the outcome.”

The next game for the Aztecs is this Friday, November 10, as they face BYU on the road.

Game Notes and News

  • LeDee finished with his 3rd career double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds
  • SDSU is (129-16) when leading at the half under Dutcher
  • SDSU’s largest lead was 27 points
  • Aztecs finished with 19 assists on 28 made field goals
  • Most steals in a game (12) since 2022 against UC San Diego
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