San Diego State’s resilency keeps them undeafeated

Credit: AP Photo

SDSU Aztecs

The AP’s 4th-ranked 2020 SDSU Aztecs men’s basketball team stands alone as the only undefeated team in college basketball.

On Saturday, they increased their streak to 19-0 after defeating Steve Alford’s Nevada Wolf Pack 68-55. After being down at the half, the Men of the Montezuma roared back when Jordan Shackle hit a 3-pointer that ignited a 24-to-7 run for San Diego. Nevada’s defensive game plan initially stifled SDSU, but the adjustments the Aztecs made at half time were the defining factor in the game’s outcome. Trailing at the end of the first half, Aztec nation was surely worried. Nevada matched SDSU’s intensity level and went into the locker room up 32-35. With the nation’s longest winning streak on the line, the Aztecs regrouped and came out in the second half with a new resiliency.

During his postgame conference with the local press, coach Dutcher detailed how his half time adjustments affected the game, “The second half our defense locked in and might have been the best of the season. They (Nevada) shot 14% in the second half. In the first half, we had three stops in a row one time, in the second I think we did it six times, had three stops in a row,” Dutcher said.

San Diego relied on their notoriously stingy defense and deafening home-court advantage to lift them past Nevada. Senior transfer Yanni Wetzell had a career game, and his double-double lifted his team to an NCAA-leading 19th win. By the end of the contest, Wetzell recorded 17 points, 16 rebounds, and was given a standing ovation by the sold-out crowd at Viejas Arena.

Despite being defensively double-teamed, Malachi Flynn scored 14 points while juniors Matt Mitchell and Jordan Shackle helped San Diego’s cause by both scoring in double digits. After the game, Shackle told the press about how they overcame the first-half adversity, “we changed some things at the half, but we just had confidence that if we kept working hard and kept sticking to our game plan that we could keep having good results,” Shackle said.

Earlier in the week, SDSU went into the Save Mart Center and beat Fresno St. 64-55 for the second time in two weeks in a clash between two of the Mountain West’s strongest defenses. Flynn led the offense with 22 points, followed by Wetzell, who scored 17. The upper respiratory infection that has held out Nathan Mensah has opened up an opportunity for Wetzell to earn more minutes and put up more significant numbers on the stat sheet.

Aguek Arop made his return from injury with four points for San Diego against the Bulldogs. When speaking to the press after the game, Flynn talked about his role in earning SDSU’s 18th victory. “As a point guard, you can’t do one thing, there are no point guards that just score. That’s not how it goes anymore. A lot of them can score, but they also can find people and do things on defense. I just try to do a little bit of everything for this team,” Flynn said.

The Aztec’s get a quick turn around this week and will face off against Wyoming on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. The Cowboys sit at last place in the Mountain West and are winless against the conference’s competition. They lost to the Aztecs by 20 points on January 8 and are coming off a 15-point loss to Fresno State in their most recent game. San Diego will then hit the road and head to Las Vegas, where they will play UNLV for the first time this season on Sunday, January 26th, at 1 pm also on CBSSN. The Runnin Rebels are 6-1 in conference play and currently sit just behind SDSU in the Mountain West Conference standings.

Throughout the season, this Aztec team has evolved. Their mentality has developed to withstand the mounting pressure as their win streak grows larger. After the win over Nevada, Wetzell sat down with the media and encapsulated how the team has compartmentalized the hype that comes with being the only undefeated team in the country, “We just try to eliminate complacency. We come every day, we work every day, and we treat every day like if we were 0-0. So that’s the biggest thing, just to not get complacent. Not getting lackadaisical just coming and working every day,” Wetzell told the local media.

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