Viejas Arena – San Diego State University
The San Diego State Men’s basketball team dominated Cal State San Marcos in the first action of the season in front of fans.
The Aztecs started a bit slow; however, after a few minutes, they were able to shake off the rust. San Marcos went up 9-4 early on, but then the Aztecs came right back and closed the lead.
The emphasis early was to drive to the rim and draw as many fouls as they could. That certainly worked. The Aztecs forced seven fouls in the first six minutes of the game. SDSU capitalized on it, making their first six free throws. The Aztecs were in the bonus before some fans could even get into their seats.
Jaedon LeDee nailed the first three-pointer of the game for the Aztecs on a fast break and took advantage of the off-pressure from the Cougars’ defense. That was San Diego State’s first lead of the game (15-14).
Head coach Brian Dutcher’s squad started to pull away. However, the Cougars’ effort on the floor did not go unnoticed. CSUSM started this contest a lot better than many thought and held a lead for the first seven minutes of the game.
LeDee tallied nine points just eight minutes into the contest. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. The 6-foot-9 forward also drew nine fouls in the first half (11 total) and went 8-10 from the charity strike.
“I don’t really think about it like that,” LeDee said when asked if drawing fouls is a part of his plan. “Making my presence known and playing physical is what we wanted to carry over to this year. I started off the game setting the tone.”
As the rest of the half unfolded, it was clear who was in Dutcher’s rotation. Miles Byrd, Miles Heide, Jay Pal, BJ Davis, and Demarshay Johnson Jr. all were a part of the game plan.
The Miles duo of Byrd and Heide were the first to check into the game. Pal, Davis, and Johnson, however, played a combined 22 minutes in the half.
— Brandon Stone (@BStoneKUSI) October 31, 2023
The highlight of the first half was in transition when Byrd stripped the ball and then assisted on an alley-oop to Heide. Heide led the squad with a +13 in the half.
“It was good to see (Byrd) play defense,” Dutcher said. “That is the biggest learning curve. He is out there competing. He is getting hands on the ball, deflecting passes, coming up with steals, and he’s playing with high energy. You come to this program you have to defend and at a high level. He played a little freer offensively and other than the turnovers, Miles had a really solid game.”
Lamont Butler did not attempt a shot until late in the half. His only points were on a fastbreak, which resulted in a tough lay-in. He ended with two points on 1-2 shooting in the half.
SDSU led CSUSM 43-30 at the break.
The Aztecs started the second half on a 7-2 run.
LeDee drained a three to put the Aztecs up 23 with around 14 minutes left in that half. That shot put him at 18 for the game.
SDSU pulled away with about 12 minutes remaining in the game. Their defense was too much for the Cougars to handle. The Aztecs held CSUSM to just eight points (12.5%) in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
That is a dominant run defensively, no matter the opponent.
“I think like most teams … they got tired,” Dutcher said. “They had foul trouble and we wore them down. It’s hard to shoot the ball with tired legs. We wore them down and we do that to a lot of people.”
Despite the huge lead, SDSU kept the pressure on defensively. There were no easy buckets for the Cougars on Monday night. The Cougars ended with just 20 second-half points and shot well below 20% in the half.
LeDee had a huge night, and he carried the Aztecs to victory, playing just six seconds shy of 25 minutes in the game. His ability to shoot the three as well as attack the rim proves that the forward can be a star.
Monday night was a great night for Dutcher’s squad. He learned a lot about his players and showcased a few different lineups out there. Darrion Trammell did not play, and Elijah Saunders started in his place.
With Trammell potentially back next week, we should see a starting lineup of Trammell, Butler, Micah Parrish, LeDee, and Reese Waters.
No. 17 SDSU will host Cal State Fullerton for the season opener on November 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.