In what will be the biggest test of the #24 San Diego State Aztecs’ 2020-21 season, SDSU took the trip out west to face the #23 Arizona State Devils.
The Aztecs basically went wire-to-wire to remain undefeated in their 80-68 victory.
With the win, San Diego State extended their nation’s best 13-game road winning streak. They also own the nation’s longest non-conference win streak at 17 games.
SDSU has also now beat the two best teams in the PAC-12, according to the PAC-12 preseason poll, in the first two weeks of the season. The Aztecs beat PAC-12 preseason favorites, the UCLA Bruins, in their first game.
Two Aztecs set career highs in points Thursday night.
Nathan Mensah cooked a smaller Arizona State team. In the first half, he recorded a double-double despite leaving the floor for a few minutes after falling on a failed alley-oop. He finished Thursday’s game with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Jordan Schakel also left Desert Financial Arena having a career night. After struggling in the first half from behind the arc, Schackel seemingly could not miss. He finished 9-15 from the floor and 5-9 for threes. His 25 points were tied for a game-high with Sun Devil guard Alonzo Verge.
— San Diego State Men's Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) December 11, 2020
Everyone knows that the San Diego State program’s strength is the defense, and primarily the team defense. Their opposition, ASU, thrives offensively, ranking 10th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
In a battle of two strengths, the Aztecs out-muscled the Sun Devils. ASU scored a season-low 68 points Thursday, which includes 14 points in the game’s final four minutes.
The Aztecs gave up 14 garbage time points. They held the 10th best offense in the nation (according to KenPom) to 54 points in 36 minutes. When they didn’t switch as much Nathan absolutely controlled the paint.
— Aztec Breakdown (@aztecbreakdown) December 11, 2020
SDSU also out-rebounded ASU all game, and it started early. The Aztecs followed Mensah’s lead after he recorded his first-half double-double and kept the foot on the gas pedal. San Diego State finished with a +7 rebounding margin over Arizona State.
Mensah took advantage of the fact that both teams were lacking depth in the frontcourt.
ASU freshman forward Marcus Bagley missed the contest after suffering an injury on his lower leg in his last game against California. He averaged just under six rebounds per game through his first four career games. Taeshon Cherry also played less in the contest after injuring his shoulder in the first half.
Mensah also capitalized on the lack of depth for the Aztecs, as Keshad Johnson missed the game due to COVID-19 concerns. Keith Dinwiddie and Che Evans also missed the contest for the same reason.
Despite a rough game from the floor, star forward Matt Mitchell still amassed 14 points. He shot a whopping 15 free throws, taking advantage of the Sun Devils being in foul trouble. SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher said after the game that Mitchell is currently dealing with a shoulder injury.
The Aztecs will host their rival BYU next Saturday. Last year’s matchup between these two went down to the wire with an Aztecs victory in Provo. BYU is 5-2 so far on the season. Tip-off for that game is at 2:00 PT.
Dominic is currently a Senior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, studying Sports Journalism. He also hosts the “Devils Talking Padres” podcast and is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.