No.7 ranked Aztecs sending strong message to NCAA

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: MWC

Before being ranked 7th nationally in the AP Poll, the San Diego State men’s basketball team went into Utah State on Saturday and totally dominated the Aggies.

San Diego earned a pivotal victory and improved to 15-0 on their season. In what was one of the most highly-anticipated matchups on the Mountain West’s conference schedule, SDSU aced the assignment, executed their game plan and imposed their will on their strongest conference opponent.

On the snow-white arena floor in front of a capacity crowd, Malachi Flynn scored 22 points, led his team with focused confidence, and left the ravenous Aggies’ fan section speechless. The Aggies are statistically one of the NCAA’s best teams, and many thought they posed the biggest threat to the Aztecs so far undefeated season.

The Aztecs ferocious defense set the tone for the contest and overwhelmed a Utah State offense that averages 79 points per game. San Diego’s 5th ranked defense stepped up to the occasion in a hostile environment. SDSU earned revenge for the 2019 conference tournament championship and won 77-68 to claim the top spot in the Mountain West.

The Aztecs have come together as a cohesive unit and the notorious competitive nature of their practices has led to noticed production off the bench. Production from critical contributors like the injured Nathan Mensah and Aguek Arop was boldly compensated for with emerging playmakers like Matt Mitchell, who scored 19 pts and Trey Pulliam, who had five assists.

Mitchell hustled for rebounds, and senior transfer KJ Feagin sacrificed his body for every chance at a loose ball. The Aztecs have implemented “we before me” they are not about padding individual stats. They show up hungry for the win, and so far, this season have yet to fall short of their goal.

The team has not taken anything for granted as they fight for every basket like if it’s life and death. The Aztecs’ determination on defense overwhelmed the feeble-looking Aggies and rendered Utah State’s usually potent offense ineffective.

“Our kids executed the No.1 word on the board was trust. Trust yourself, trust your teammates, trust your coaches, and you are going to have good results”, said Coach Dutcher about the team’s goals against Utah State.

Earlier in the week, the Aztecs took down Fresno State at home 61-52 in front of a home crowd that game after game is growing stronger and only adding to the unrelenting atmosphere at Viejas Arena. Senior-transfer Yanni Wetzell had eight rebounds, and Malachi Flynn led the Aztecs’ scoring with 16 points.

With about ten minutes left in the game, substitute Joel Mensah carved out some room in the bottom of the paint, received a pass from Pulliam, slammed it home for San Diego, and forced Fresno to call a timeout to rethink their game plan.

Coach Dutcher’s team increased their lead for 14 and ended up winning by nine. “We set a game plan. Our guys are smart, and they followed the game plan”, said Dutcher.

The Aztecs continue their northwest business trip on Wednesday against Wyoming. The Cowboys are led by Coach Allen Edwards and have a 5-11 record on the season.

With four losses in mountain conference play and a lack of notable wins, Wyoming is struggling to create any semblance of positive momentum this season. Regardless of the Cowboys’ outlook, the Aztecs need to stay focused on one opponent at a time when navigating the treacherous Mountain West schedule. After Wednesday’s match up the Aztecs will come back home to face Boise St at 7pm on Saturday January 11th.

Matt Mitchell assessed his team’s outlook on their chances for the rest of their schedule, “Sky’s the limit, our team chemistry is not 100% right now, so we’re going to keep on working.”

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