The San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team beat UNLV 71-67 on Sunday, earning their 21st victory of the season, which set a record for the best start to a season in program history.
The UNLV Rebels strategized to limit San Diego’s scoring potential by pressuring Malachi Flynn and often double-teaming Yanni Wetzell down low. The Aztecs were forced to get creative, distribute the ball and lean on some of their less experienced scorers. As a result, junior-transfer Trey Pulliam scored a career-high 18 points and put forth a tremendous effort in helping his team remain undefeated.
Trey Pulliam shared his perspective about his role coming off of SDSU’s bench. “It’s hard at times. This is a completely different game for me. Flynn and Feagin have taken me under their wings, and they keep me confident. They’ve never given up on me. As good as they are probably the best teammates I have ever played with. With their talent, they could be selfish, but they always have my back and always try to help me,” said Pulliam.
The UNLV men’s basketball team came into the matchup against San Diego as one of the top offensive-rebounding teams in the nation.
Throughout the game, Wetzell’s extra efforts on the boards were evident. He clawed for rebounds, boxed out his opponents, and spun around defenders in a fight for the best position under the hoop. Despite the Aztec’s emphasis, UNLV outrebounded SDSU 36-to-32. Regardless of being heavily guarded, Malachi Flynn relentlessly drove the ball into the teeth of the UNLV defense and led his team with 21 points, seven of which came on free-throws.
After the game, Flynn spoke to the media about how other players have emerged to help San Diego win. “We have a lot of guys who can go on this team. Trey (Pulliam) doesn’t get as much playing time as he could on other teams, just because we are so deep. But today, he stepped up into that role and was huge for us,” Flynn said.
In their previous game on Jan. 21, SDSU took down Wyoming 72-55. The Aztecs controlled the pace of the game. Flynn sunk the night’s first 3-pointer off an assist from Wetzell and led for the remainder of the night. Viejas Arena was jam-packed with San Diego fans, and their overwhelming presence only added to their team’s advantage. Matt Mitchell, Jordan Shackle, Wetzell, and Flynn all scored in the double digits. Aguek Arop reaggravated his injured shoulder during the contest, but according to coach Dutcher, “he felt fine after the game.”
The 17-point scoring margin SDSU posted against Wyoming, matches their season average which stands as NCAA’s third-best in that particular statistic. Dutcher explained to the media the importance of taking every game seriously. “We always have respect for our opponents. We never overlook anybody. We never feel like we’re just going to step out there and win with talent. We have to prepare for everybody. Everybody has a shot to be good, and our guys do a good job preparing no matter who our opponent is or what their record is,” Dutcher said.
SDSU’s depth has been pivotal to their success this season. So far, the Associated Press’s 4th-ranked Aztecs keep finding ways to undermine opposing teams by out-scoring, outhustling, and outcoaching all of them.
After beating Wyoming, coach Dutcher reflected on matching SDSU’s best record. “Oh yeah definitely, I think that’s great, and that’s great notably to have and to be up there, but we don’t get a banner for being 20-0, so we’ve just got to keep pushing,” Dutcher said.
San Diego will stay on the road and play their next game against New Mexico in “The Pit.” New Mexico beat the Aztecs 83-70 during their last meeting in the 2018-2019 season. The Lobos are 16-6 overall, undefeated at home, but are coming off a 22-point loss to Nevada.
The Aztecs will play New Mexico on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
In their weekend game, the Aztecs play their second game of the year against Utah State. This time at Viejas Arena. The game is at 1 p.m. and is sold out.