Aztecs take care of Bulldogs from start to finish, win 73-41

Credit: Jacqueline Carrilo

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Credit: Jacqueline Carrillo

Last February, a ranked San Diego State Aztecs basketball team went to Fresno to play a 9-15 Fresno State Bulldogs team it was favored to beat by nearly double digits. The Aztecs won, but in a 45-43 fashion that may have been the ugliest win in school history and a game that will never be utilized in offensive training manuals.

Despite a nine-game winning streak against the Bulldogs heading into Saturday night, some of the games have been closer than expected.

“It’s like a year ago we played them, it seems,” said SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher, referencing the opening conference game against the Bulldogs on January 3, where the Aztecs won by 27 at Viejas Arena. “So they are a different team. They are suffering through some injuries, but they had a bye week, so they will be ready for our game. … It’s less to do with who you are playing but how you are playing, so we have to play well in order to win there.”

To grab the attention of the Aztecs even more for their game against a team with a 210 NET ranking, New Mexico suffered a Quad 4 loss to Air Force (273 NET) earlier on Saturday by one point at The Pit.  

No such issue for the 19th-ranked team in the AP and Coaches Polls. 

SDSU (21-7, 10-5) scored the first 12 points of the game and cruised to a 73-41 victory over the Bulldogs (11-16, 4-10) at the Save Mart Center for its tenth consecutive win in the series. 

Jaedon LeDee led the way with 22 points (8/11 FG, 1/1 3PT, 5/6 FT) and 11 rebounds as he continued his quest for Mountain West Player of the Year. He also added a team-high three blocks, his most in a game this season.   

Jay Pal (14), Reese Waters (12), and Micah Parrish (10) also contributed double figures to the scoring effort. 

Credit: Jacqueline Carrillo

Darrion Trammell led the team with six assists and chipped in seven points. 

“We practiced and prepared at a high level,” Dutcher told Ted Leitner on the 760 AM postgame show. “We came out and played at a high level … and the goal is to continue that.” 

Lamont Butler, who went scoreless with three turnovers in the road loss to Utah State on Tuesday night, went scoreless in the first half again. He scored on a driving layup early in the second half to break his drought and added five rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal to only one turnover in the game.

The Bulldogs started the game in a 2-3 zone, but the Aztecs came prepared. They moved the ball as well as they have probably all season, combining wide-open 3-point attempts with shots in the paint. The team assisted on seven of their first nine shots and later led 29-5 with eight minutes remaining in the first half before the Bulldogs’ Isaiah Hill knocked in a 3.

“(Tonight was) maybe as connected offensively as we have been in a long time,” added Dutcher. “Moving the ball, hitting the open man. … Nobody forced a shot. Everyone made the extra pass.” 

The Aztecs connected on 11 of their first 20 shots and five of 10 from behind the arc, while the Bulldogs missed 11 of their first 12 shots. 

The lead extended to 30 towards the end of the first half, and the margin was 26 (42-16) at halftime. 

The Aztecs’ made sure to not relax and let the Bulldogs get any momentum in the second half, not letting the game get closer than 23 points and winning by the largest margin, 32. 

The play of the game was an inbounds pass alley-oop from Butler to Pal which required the Aztec to take the ball away and finish over 6’11 Pierre Geneste Jr.  

The Aztecs outrebounded the Bulldogs 52-34. Freshman Miles Heide added two of the team’s nine blocks.

The Aztecs’ hot early shooting faded over the final 25 minutes, finishing the game making 42% (28/67) from the field and 30% (8/27) from behind the arc. 

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The Bulldogs were without centers Eduardo Andre and Enoch Boakye and guard Donovan Yap in this matchup. Andre has not played since January 3 and is out for the season. Boakye injured his ankle one minute into the game against UNLV on February 14 and has not played since. Yap has a broken hand and is out indefinitely. 

Without their top two big men, the Bulldog’s offense struggled to find any openings in the paint and was relegated to shooting a lot of shots behind the arc. It didn’t work out well for them, only making two of 13 in the first half when the Aztecs took control of the game. They finished making only 5 of 27 (19%) from downtown and 25% (14/57) from the field overall.  

Hill led the Bulldogs with 12 points (5/14 FG, 1/6 3PT, 1/2 FT) and two steals. Xavier Dusell was the only other player in double digits, scoring ten. The Bulldogs only collected three assists as a team. 

The Aztecs return home to Viejas Arena on Tuesday night at 8 pm against the San Jose State Spartans. They still hold an outside shot at sharing the regular season conference title, needing to win their final three games and one loss by Utah State from their four remaining contests.

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