Magical Mensah leads Aztecs to a statement win
Last year, the San Diego State Aztecs lost all three match-ups with the Boise State Broncos on the last possession of the game.
The Aztecs made very sure that it didn’t come down to that on Friday night. With upstart court stormers in Reno, a defending champion in Boise, and hot teams in Albuquerque and Logan, the Aztecs decided they needed to make an example of someone.
Wrong place, wrong time, Boise State.
The demolition of the Broncos reminded everyone in the conference that the Mountain West still runs through Viejas Arena.
Boise State, who came into the game tied for first place in the Mountain West with the Aztecs, looked like a high school team. The Broncos were without Marcus Shaver, who averages 13.2 PPG, as he was unable to play through his ankle injury. However, Boise State did get Naje Smith, who was able to play despite suffering a leg injury against Air Force in the Broncos’ previous game.
It was a sloppy start for both sides, as each team struggled to make open looks and take advantage of miscues. Brian Dutcher was quick to send Aguek Arop and Adam Seiko into the game. Arop made Dutcher’s decision look good, as he had two early blocks and a bucket of his own. After the game, Dutcher said, “We have a deep bench. If you look at our minutes, they’re almost split.”. The deep bench of the Aztecs, compared to the shallow one of the Broncos, was clearly the difference early.
After the first media timeout, it was all San Diego State. They switched to the press, became physically imposing inside, and went on a 25-4 run in the process. The scoring spurt was powered by Nathan Mensah, who scored eight points. The Aztecs also got Tyson Degenhart into foul trouble, as he picked up three fouls in the first 12:10 of the game. Degenhart, who is the Broncos’ leading scorer, was being asked to carry even more of the load with Shaver out.
A media timeout could do nothing to cease the Broncos suffering. Adam Seiko hit two more threes, including one from the logo that drew a timeout from Boise St. coach Leon Rice. Nathan Mensah found his way into double figures with yet another basket. After Seiko’s three, San Diego State’s bench was given a technical foul. After the game, Coach Dutcher explained that the technical was given to one of the basketball managers, who was judged to be taunting the Boise bench. However, Dutcher said he didn’t see the play, so he had no comment.
The technical foul did nothing to stop the crushing tsunami of the Aztecs, who kept their foot on the gas. Despite Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell being held scoreless, the Aztecs scored 43 points in the first half. Their defense was completely and utterly suffocating. Boise State shot just 33.3% while turning the ball over nine times. “We brought up our defensive intensity to make other teams feel us a little more.”, said Trammell post-game.
The first half finished with: Boise State ten second violation, Lamont Butler jumper, Boise State airball, and Nathan Mensah left-handed lay-up. That minute encapsulated the first half, as everything went San Diego State’s way.
Trammell finally got onto the scorer’s sheet a minute and a half into the second half, but the Aztecs continued to rely on other players for buckets. Keshad Johnson had a statement slam dunk, Nathan Mensah laid in open looks down low, and the Aztecs getting baskets from everyone.
While Viejas Arena stayed raucous and jubilant, that didn’t mean that Brian Dutcher was any less aggressive. He stuck with the nine-man rotation that he’s used for nearly the entire season, and the Aztecs stayed in the press.
The defense continued to be stifling. Boise State turned the ball over on an inbound pass, then they couldn’t work their way inside the three-point line before a shot clock violation ended their misery.
Much to the joy of the sellout crowd, halfway through the second half, Matt Bradley finally got his first points of the game with a pull-up jumper. Two minutes later, because everything else was going right, Aguek Arop pulled up for a three-pointer.
Nothing but net.
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That’ll summarize the game.
Three days after a frustrating loss to Nevada the sent the Mountain West title race into chaos, San Diego State took a big step towards their third regular season Mountain West title in four years. Brian Dutcher still has not lost a home game, coming off of a loss since his first season.
Nathan Mensah had 17, a huge game for the big man. Keshad Johnson had 10, with most of the Aztecs scoring spread very evenly. Against a very good Boise State team, the Aztecs picked up a resume-building Quad 1 win, put themselves alone in first place in the Mountain West, and they did it with just three points from their leading scorer.
Statement win. Aztecs are back in business. They’ll head to Logan for a date with Utah State on Wednesday.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.
They didn’t get their traditional defensive nap in the second half this time but the offence did. Again.
Just imagine how great it would be if they played both halves of a game like they played the first half last night.