Aztecs set sights on another Mountain West championship


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During a timeout, Brian Dutcher instructs his team. (Deanna Goldberg/EVT)

The San Diego State Aztecs have advanced to the Mountain West Tournament Championship game for the seventh consecutive year. Every year during Coach Dutcher’s tenure, the Aztecs have played in the championship game. 

They do so after defeating the regular season champion Utah State Aggies 86-70. Jaedon LeDee once again led the way, but four other players also scored in double digits. 


“(In) the second half, we came out, played good Aztec basketball, and guarded,” head coach Brian Dutcher said on Friday night. We out-rebounded them. Defensive rebounds are going to win championships. That’s what we preach and believe in. I thought we guarded and rebounded at a high level.”

Their opponent will be the New Mexico Lobos, who defeated Colorado State 74-61 behind Jaelen House’s 19 points and eight assists. 

It will be the fourth meeting beteeen these two programs in the championship game. The Lobos lead the series 2-1. 

Here are three factors to watch during the game:


No team outside the top 5 seeds has made the championship game since the current tournament format started. Playing so many games in so many days takes it’s toll. The Aztecs will be playing their third game in three days. That always has an impact and often results in late rotations, missed jump shots, etc. That being said, the opponent will be playing their fourth game in four days. So they should feel even more fatigue, more late rotations, more missed jump shots, etc. 

The Aztecs will want to try and at least keep the game close in the first half. If they do so, they should be able to break away, as the cumulative load of four games in four days takes its toll on the Lobos.


One thing the Aztecs did really well in the victory over Utah State was to attack the basket. Playing aggressive offensively let them finish at the rim, grab offensive rebounds when they missed, or draw fouls and get to the free throw line. 

When asked if the coaches encouraged Jaedon LeDee to be aggressive, Coach Dutcher said, “I don’t think we needed to tell Jaedon to be aggressive. We have to dial him back sometimes.”

Hopefully they do not dial him back too much, because shooting at the rim often has better results than missing a three point shot. Last season, neither team in the championship shot better than 17% from deep. Over the past six seasons, only three of the twelve teams to play in the championship have matched or exceeded the national average 33.3% form behind the arc. Playing aggressive and getting to the rim will make it so the Aztecs do not have to worry about missing from the perimeter so much. 


“Board man gets paid.” It’s a mantra that goes back over a decade at SDSU. The focus on defense and rebounding is what Coach Dutcher credits for making it to the conference championship game for the seventh year in a row. 

“It’s our defense that separates us, and that’s what we rely on,” Dutcher said. “And I tell them, at some point, we’re going to find something that works (offensively). It may not work for the first half. It may not work for three-quarters of the game, but we’ll find something to put it in. We have to hang in the game long enough till we find that thing that works. We rely on our defense and our rebounding.”

The Aztecs out rebounded UNLV by 19 in a three point win. They outrebounded Utah State by 14 in a 16-point win. 

New Mexico is one of the better rebounding teams in the nation, especially on the offensive end. Ending possessions by securing the rebound and preventing easy putback points will be a key for both teams

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