Aztecs defeat New Mexico 81-70 in collaborative effort

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT Sports

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Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Viejas Arena – San Diego State University 

The San Diego State Aztecs remain undefeated at home! A stellar outing from Brian Dutcher’s squad results in the 19th straight home win for the Aztecs, the most in the nation.

Once SDSU gained the lead, they did not let it back up for the rest of the game. The transition defense improved a ton in this game, and that was a concern in the first half against CSU.

“It was a really hard fought team victory,” Dutcher said after the win. “Dave Velazquez said after the game that he felt this was the first game where everyone really contributed, everybody who played, at a high level. That was the case. Everyone produced.”

The Aztecs improved to 20-6 on the season and 9-4 in conference play. They currently sit in second place in the Mountain West behind Utah State at 9-3. Regardless of Utah State’s result against Colorado State on Saturday, the Aztecs will be playing for first place in the conference on Tuesday night.

Coach Dutcher started out with another lineup change. Jay Pal earned the start over Reese Waters to bring a little more length on the floor, as well as having either Darrion Trammell or Lamont Butler free up from Jaelen House.

“They are such a good rebounding team,” Dutcher said about the lineup change. “We needed some length with Pal out there to try and neutralize rebounding that they really hurt us on in the first game. I thought that was important we did that. We have shaken up the lineup a lot this year and probably will continue to shake it up trying to found out who the best man is based on who we are playing.”

The energy started when Aztecs’ head football coach Sean Lewis got the crowd fired up with the “I Believe” chant. Viejas Arena was rocking before the opening tip-off.

Jaelen House started off with a three for New Mexico. He scored the first two field goals for the Lobos with a quick five points. The Aztecs stayed in the game early with three offensive rebounds, leading to five second-chance points. Pal, who started his third game of the season, had two quick offensive boards.

Jaedon LeDee was everywhere to start for the Aztecs. He scored eight points on 3-3 shooting in the first eight minutes. The senior gave the Aztecs their first lead of the game with a no-hesitation triple. SDSU led 14-12 with 12:00 minutes to go in the first half.

Since gaining the advantage, the Aztecs did not let go. They maintained control thanks to LeDee’s scoring and Miles Byrd’s energy off the bench. Byrd came in and blocked two shots while draining a triple on the fast break. He ended the game with four blocks on the night.

LeDee, however, was the star of the first half. Missing just one shot, LeDee scored 14 first-half points on 5-6 shooting. He drew five fouls, resulting in 3-4 from the line.

SDSU led by 11 at the break, 39-28. Jaelen House and JT Toppin combined to score 21 of the Lobos’ 28 first-half points. SDSU held Jamal Mashburn Jr. scoreless on 0-6 from then field. Jay Pal ended the half with a game-high six rebounds.

The second half started back and forth. House continued to lead the Lobos while LeDee was being fed every possession. LeDee and the Aztecs forced Toppin and Junior Joseph to commit their 3rd fouls, each with well over 15 minutes to go in the game. If SDSU kept the pressure on, then the Lobos were going to run out of big men.

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

The Aztecs led 47-38 with 15:10 remaining in the game.

After a timeout, Richard Pitino picked up a technical foul arguing with a referee. That almost sparked the Lobos. Waters nailed in the two free throws to put SDSU up 56-43.

Pal, who played terrific defense all night, picked up his fourth foul of the game with 11:12 remaining. Saunders replaced him. The Aztecs surely did not want Pal on the bench in foul trouble as crunch time was approaching. Trammell picked up his fourth right after that call.

The Lobos responded right away with an 8-0 run in just 24 seconds of play to bring the score within five.

The Aztecs said enough with that.

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They regained control. Elijah Saunders scored eight straight points for the Aztecs in high fashion. The forward did not hesitate and drained two triples in a row. On the very next possession, Saunders slammed one in on the ally oop assisted by Byrd. That was Byrd’s sixth assist of the game.

“Thanks to (Byrd) for throwing me that lob,” Saunders said after the game about this eight-straight points. “You know, I hadn’t hit a three before that but the last few games I’ve been trying to have a clear head not thinking about the shots I missed. Trying to stay level-headed and knowing good things are coming.”

The Aztecs rode momentum the rest of the way through and dominated to end the game.

“A lot of energy in Viejas,” Saunders said on his thoughts on the victory. “That was one of the most electric games we have had in here and it’s been a. battle with New Mexico over these last few games. We had something to prove on our home court.”

Up next for the Aztecs is another tough opponent. They take on first place Utah State on the road in Logan, Tuesday, February 20 at 6:00 pm.

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT Sports

News & Stats

  • New Mexico finished with zero blocked shots. They had 14 in the win against SDSU earlier in the season.
  • Jaedon LeDee – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals
  • Lamont Butler – 13 points, 3 steals
  • Miles Byrd – 3 points, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 1 steal
  • Elijah Saunders – 12 points, 3 rebounds
  • Jay Pal – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals
  • SDSU shot 56.9% from the floor. NM shot 35.5%.

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