Aztecs find groove, beat Saint Mary’s 74-49

Credit: SDSU

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Credit: Rick Schmidt

Last week the Aztecs were dealt their first loss of the season by BYU. Despite Matt Mitchell having a career game, the rest of the team couldn’t produce much in that game. This game saw everyone else step up and be a contributing factor to the team’s success.

Credit to Brian Dutcher and the Aztecs; they fixed the glaring holes that were present last game. The bench points in the paint and rebounding production were all seemingly fixed. Jordan Schakel returned to form by scoring 12 points, shooting 2-5 from deep, and a flawless 6-6 FT. Across the board, everyone looked confident shooting, and that showed with by shooting 56% FG and 41% from beyond the arc. Then there is the production of Nathan Mensah and Terrell Gomez.

Mensah was an unstoppable force in this game. Last game, he was a big reason SDSU struggled to rebound and get points in the paint. In this game, his double-double performance was the reason SDSU was competitive in those areas. His 18 points and six blocks are each career highs for him. He shot 8-9 from the floor and 2-2 from the charity stripe. He snagged 13 rebounds this game, three of which were offensive rebounds.

That presence down low helps the flow of the team both on the offensive side and defensive. Saint Mary would have to honor the pick and roll because if Mensah had the ball in the paint, he was very likely to score. No matter how tightly they played him, he was able to work an opening and make buckets. On the defensive side, there is the six blocks aspect, but then the intimidation that comes with the six blocks. When Saint Mary sees that Mensah is denying their inside shot, it causes them to dish the ball outside. To SDSU’s credit, they locked down the outside shot and held Saint Mary to a 23-shooting percentage from deep.

When Brian Dutcher was asked about Mensah’s performance, he said, “Well, we gave it to him in the low post. We have to give it to him for him to be successful, and when we did, he produced offensively. And then, on the defensive end, we know what it is. He had six blocked shots, and how many others he changed…”

Gomez had high expectations coming into this season. The transfer from Cal State Northridge was supposed to help fill the hole that Malachi Flynn left when he was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Outside of Schakel and Mitchell, he is the next biggest three-point threat. Up to this point, he hadn’t found his rhythm and wasn’t the deep threat that many had hoped he would be. Tonight, he showed everyone what the hype was about. His three 3-pointers lead the team, and he even managed to drive and make two buckets inside the arc.

What really shines is the two shots that he took closer to the basket. His 5-foot-8 size does not bode well in that area. He is starting to use his quick shot to take advantage of the openings he finds. Then on top of that, he managed to snag four assists. This shows how he is settling into the team and becoming a playmaker.

In the postgame conference, when asked about his early offensive success, Gomez said, “I just want to push the tempo, definitely try to be an offensive spark for the team and on defense get a couple of steals.” He helped lead the bench to a 25-point game over Saint Mary’s 12 points from their bench.

As a team, SDSU probably played their best basketball all season. Saint Mary’s coming into the game was 8-1 and will compete against teams like Pepperdine in their conference. SDSU, as an organization, has prided itself on defense. Holding their opponent to a 31 field goal percentage is a massive accomplishment. Then having four different players with double-digit point totals is just a huge boost after a tough loss that saw little offensive production. SDSU finished the first half with a 20-point lead and expanded that to a 29-point lead at one point in the second period.

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