Viejas Arena- San Diego, California
Coming off a big win against #22 UCLA, all the Aztecs had to do this game was meet expectations. They easily covered their 13-point spread while earning their second win of the young season.
This game did not always look like the easy win that the box score shows. For most of the first period, UC Irvine was in the game. In fact, they had a two-point lead with less than four minutes left in the first period. What held them in the game was the sloppy shooting by SDSU. For comparison sake against UCLA, the Aztecs made 46.6% of their field goal attempts. Against UC Irvine, that dropped down to 39.3% in the first period. Jordan Schakel was shooting 1-5, Aguek Arop missed all three of his shots, Keshad Johnson went 0-2.
Aguek Arop will have to improve in the next game if he wants to keep his starting role. On the day, he went 0-3 FG, 4-8 FT, with 7 rebounds, and four fouls. While the rebounding led the team, the rest of his game is lacking. Missing half of his free throws and fouling four times will lead to transfer Joshua Tomiac taking some of his minutes.
A bright side in the first half for the Aztecs was the play by Trey Pulliam. Last season he had flashes of greatness that exciting the Aztec Nation. He has started to put together better performances consistently. His ball-handling is top-notch, and he uses his speed to drive to the net and catch defenses on their heels. He went 4-6 with one three-pointer on the day. He is no Malachi Flynn, but he is starting to lead the offense.
What started to kill the Anteaters was ultimately themselves. They turned over the ball a total of 25 times in the game. Within the last four minutes of the first period, they turned over the ball four times while seeing their two-point lead turn into a 34-25 deficit by the end of the period. Two of their starters, JC Butler and Isiah Lee, finished the game with 8 turnovers and 8 points combined.
The second half saw a lot better play by the Aztecs, and the main reason is Keshad Johnson. In this half, he would show off the amazing athleticism that everyone knows he has. He went 3-5 from deep and slammed home an alley-oop dunk that Terrell Gomez set up.
On top of that, Johnson had four rebounds, two of them offensive, and a steal in the second half. He might be an early breakout player that will put the Aztecs in the AP top 25.
Two Aztecs, Lamont Butler and Keith Dinwiddie Jr, each made a three-pointer to start their high potential collegiate careers.
The two freshmen were able to get playing due to the massive lead that the Aztecs had built in the second half. Brian Dutcher ended up playing 14 players instead of his planned 10, just to get some low-pressure exposure for his younger players.
The Aztecs will next play Saint Katherine on December 2nd at Viejas Arena. The games were scheduled after Colorado State had to pull out of the December 3rd matchup due to COVID-19 concerns.