Aztecs take down Air Force, move on to semi-final


Credit: CBS Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs overcame a nine-point deficit against Air Force and punched their ticket to the semi-final round of the Mountain West Basketball Tournament.

AJ Walker led the Falcons with 18 points and posed the biggest threat to San Diego State’s defense. San Diego State Junior Jordan Schakel led the Aztecs in scoring with 17 points, including five from behind the arc. Naismith Trophy Semi-Finalist, Malachi Flynn put up 16 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. Senior Yanni Wetzell recorded 16 points, and junior Matt Mitchell added 10 points. San Diego State took down Air Force 73-60 and will move on to either face Boise State or UNLV on Friday.

Air Force led for the majority of the game, but the Aztecs kept the score close and finally surpassed the Falcons with just under fifteen minutes left in the game.

Shackle hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 44, then on his next shot; he scored three more to put the Aztecs up 47-45. In San Diego State’s next possession, Trey Pulliam found Wetzell, who scored two with an emphatic dunk. After a defensive stand and a missed 3-pointer by the Falcons, Adam Seiko passed it to Malachi Flynn, who drained a 3-pointer and forced the Falcons to call a time out. San Diego State went on a 27-6 run turning a 41-33 deficit with 18:45 to play in the second half into a 60-47 lead with 7:02 left in the game. With San Diego State’s 29th win, they end the Falcons season just one day after they beat Fresno State 77-70 on the first day of the conference tournament.

San Diego State Coach Brian Dutcher spoke to the media after the game about the adjustments his team made to bring his squad back in the game. “We didn’t switch Walker the second half. We switched everybody else, the way we did handoffs and ball screens. But we just left K.J. on Walker and had him fight over and then try to give some help with the post…Then we brought Adam in. So we had two really good defenders on him for that second half 20 minutes, and I thought they did a good job of pressuring him. We picked up full court, where he had to bring it up 94 feet instead of just running from the half-court. Tried to tire him out a little bit by picking him up full court and I thought we did a good job,” said Dutcher.

In the post-game press conference Malachi Flynn spoke to the media about how he keeps focused on one game at a time, “Yeah, I think during the game you’re just trying to stay locked in and then after you kind of just realize what happened. But we definitely appreciate the fan support. I think they have been there all year, so it’s definitely been good for all of us,” said Flynn.

Dutcher also spoke to the media post-game about his thoughts on the recent run of slow starts for San Diego State. “My focus is getting our mind wrapped around the fact that people are getting off to a good start, and we have to do better early in the game. And so sometimes the message isn’t rewarded, sometimes it is. But I thought we came out focused and ready to play, just hats off to Air Force for playing at the level they played, “said Dutcher.

San Diego State remains the nation’s only team with just one loss, and their 29-1 record is the best in SDSU history. The Aztecs also increased their winning streak away from Viejas Arena to fifteen. Many members from San Diego State’s student section “The Show” traveled to Las Vegas in support of their team, who are set to play Friday in the semi-final at 6 p.m. against Boise State.

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