Viejas Arena- San Diego, California
SDSU had a 12-point lead going into the second half on Thursday against Boise State. Over the next half, Derrick Alston would put up 22 points to force the game into OT. Once in overtime, the Aztecs returned to their dominant form and won by 12 points. So much more happened in between those highlights that need attention.
For the second time in three games, Trey Pulliam was one of the Aztecs’ top scorers. In the first half, he led the game with 11 points. It looked as if Pulliam had found the confidence in his shot and was yet another scoring option for Dutcher to use. In the second half, that version of himself seemingly disappeared. He only had three points and recorded three turnovers. His five turnovers this game marks a career-high for a player whose value typically comes from his ball-handling abilities.
This game Matt Mitchell II surprised absolutely no one when he stayed composed and came up clutch when his team needed him. He scored eight of the SDSU’s last 10 points in the second half. His ability to adapt this game was a huge factor that allowed SDSU to stay in the game. He was 0-for-5 from deep, then he turned his strategy into owning the paint. When he started driving inside, he started to draw a lot of fouls, he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe this game. On top of that he came a rebound away from a double-double. Like Pulliam he was bit by the turnover bug with four turnovers. On top of that he had four fouls including a charge with two seconds left in the game.
The final part to highlight are the two main deep threats, Terrell Gomez and Jordan Schakel. Gomez scored 10 this game and continued to take quality shots from deep. In the last three games, he is shooting 7-for-8 in three-point attempts. He continues to show confidence inside as he made two field goals this game.
Coming into this game Schakel had a chance to score at least 10 points in 10 straight games. Instead, he had a performance to forget tonight. It would take 35 minutes until he scored his first points when he made two free throws. It wasn’t a factor of his shot being off. He only attempted five shots in regulation time, only one of which was a three-point attempt. In overtime he did make one three that seemed to give the Aztecs a 5-point lead and certainly demoralize Boise State.
Derrick Alston is the reason why Boise State made a late-game comeback. His second-half performance was one of the best single-half performances all season.
“He’s just a really good player. And the start he got in the second half was sensational. So we just have to continue to do a good job. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to a player that is hitting big and timely shots, and he did that tonight.” Coach Dutcher commented on Alston’s play after the game.
That play seemed to rally his teammates as everyone stepped up. SDSU increased their FG percentage in the second half by 5%. Boise State increased theirs by 32.7%. That incredible run pushed the game into OT.
Once in OT, the Aztecs took over the game. They were able to shut down Alston and not give Boise State quality shot opportunities. In overtime, SDSU shot 4-for-6 from the field and 6-for-8 from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Boise shot 1-for-11 from the field and 1-for-3 in their free-throw attempts. That stark difference is what gave SDSU the lead in the first half and ultimately what won them the game for the Aztecs.