Aztecs take down first-place Utah State 81-67 at home

Credit: Deanna Gold/EVT Sports

Credit: Deanna Gold/EVT Sports

Viejas Arena – San Diego State University 

The San Diego State Aztecs remain victorious at home!

In a thriller, the Aztecs played their best game of the season against the first-place Utah State Aggies. The Aggies came into the game as the No. 17 team in the country, and the Aztecs looked like they were the better team.

“Welcome to the Mountain West,” head coach Brian Dutcher said after the game. “This is every game. We were ahead by one at Colorado State and couldn’t get over the top for the win and we come back here and played a 19-2 Utah State team and battled our way to a win. Our reward is to go on the road for two more games.”

The Aztecs improve to 17-5 on the season and (6-3) in the Mountain West. The Aggies fall to 19-3 and (7-2) in the conference.

Today showcased Brian Dutcher’s first real lineup change in quite some time. Dutcher decided to start the contest with Darrion Trammell and Jay Pal in the starting rotation over Micah Parrish and Elijah Saunders. Dutcher was hoping this would help them storm out the gates quicker.

“We knew coming into practice,” Trammell said when asked about the lineup change. “It was all about setting the tone when we got our chance.”

It surely helped.

This game started with pace on both sides. They went back-and-fourth to start, but the Aggies had a slight advantage, shooting 67% in the first four minutes with a two-point lead.

Jaedon LeDee committed two turnovers early on but did not turn the ball over once to finish the first half.

Credit: Deanna Gold/EVT Sports

Parrish subbed in the game as a bench player for the first time all season. He came in and drained his first three shots, tallying seven quick points. Parrish would go on to miss a few shots in a row but ended the half with nine points.

Furthermore, Jay Pal made the most of his start in the first half as he did it all. Pal finished the half with 10 points, four rebounds, and one steal in 15:23 minutes.

“If I don’t start him in the next game then I don’t know, I may have a problem, he played that good,” Dutcher said when asked if Pal will start again. “You never know. Obviously, Pal is a good rebounder for as thin as he is. If they don’t really get a body on him, then he’s got great length and great instincts. You have to really hit him on a boxout to avoid him getting it.”

The Aztecs played a gritty first half. They forced the Aggies to commit eight turnovers, and SDSU scored 12 points from it. The new additions to the lineup really paid dividends for Dutcher and his squad. Trammell and Pal combined to score 18 of the first-half points on 5-5 shooting. They also combined to go 6-8 from the charity stripe.

The Aztecs struggled from the line early to start, going 1-5. However, they figured it out by ending the half converting eight of their last nine. Making free throws was going to be a massive factor in taking down top-seeded Utah State.

Reese Waters, who a majority of fans would like to see shoot the ball more, ended the half draining a wide open triple from the corner as time expired. That as a huge shot to keep momentum into the half. Waters had just five points but also came up with a steal and was (+6) in point difference.

SDSU led 42-36 at the intermission. An important second half was looming.

The Aztecs continued their hot shooting by draining four triples to begin the second period. LeDee and Saunders converted on three of them, while Parrish launched a deep three that hit nothing but net.

SDSU had a 59-48 lead with 13:52 remaining in the contest.

Credit: Deanna Gold/EVT Sports

Jaedon LeDee turned it up a notch. He scored nine points to begin the second half and saw his point total reach 16 points. He was playing much better than his highly talented opponent in Great Osobor.

Osobor is regarded as one of the better players in the Mountain West. However, LeDee made sure to keep his name at the top.

Pal and Parrish continued to shoot the ball well. With 7:38 remaining, they combined for 25 points. Pal made his only two three-point attempts, while Parrish was 2-5 from beyond the arc.

The Aggies kept fighting. They certainly did not want to be run out of the gym in a huge game. Mason Falslev kept them in the game with 12 points on 5-8 shooting. However, He later fouled out but led the team with 16 points before disqualification.

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The Aggies ran out of time. The Aztecs are a step ahead of their opponents at home, and the fans at Viejas Arena proved to be a major factor.

SDSU got the job done in their biggest game of the season to date and will play their next two games on the road. This win proves to be even bigger as the Aztecs avoided a 3-game deficit in the conference with two roads games following.

“I saw a lot of resilience with our team,” Pal said after the win. Bouncing back and getting back home and protecting home court. That is what we did today and I’m proud of the team for it.”

Their next game will be on the road at Air Force on Tuesday, February 6, at 7:30 PM.

News & Stats

  • Jay Pal was the Player of the Game. He ended with 16 points, seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks.
  • Parrish ended with 14 points and two blocks.
  • Jaedon LeDee finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two assists.
  • Darrion Trammell had 12 points, three assists, two rebounds, and one steal
  • SDSU shot 47% from the floor and 45% from deep.
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