Aztecs handle Occidental College convincingly

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

The SDSU Aztecs men’s basketball team is coming off of a challenging trip to Maui. Coach Dutcher and his team were set to play three more games in a seven-day span, starting with UC Irvine on Tuesday.

Just three days after Micah Parrish’s game-winning three to seal the win versus UC Irvine 72-69, the Aztecs fought their way into the 11th straight win against Occidental College. The jet lag effect was apparent in Tuesday’s matchup, with SDSU shooting their worst free throw percentage of the season and committing the second-most turnovers with 14.

However, they came into Friday’s matchup with a different energy looking to start the weekend on the right foot.

The Aztec defense came into the contest ranked number 15 nationally in adjusted defense according to Kenpom,  so it is tough to score against their second test against Division 1 programs this season. The first Division 1 challenge for Occidental College took place against UC Riverside, where the Tigers struggled to put points on the board, losing the game 106-30.

Coach Dutcher chose to rest starting guard Darrion Trammell, giving Micah Parrish his first start of the season. The leading scorer for the Aztecs noticeably grabbed his right hamstring in the second half of the contest against UC Irvine before leaving to the bench for a stretch. Dutcher also chose to give Forward Ageuk Arop a rest which gave 6 ’10 transfer Demarashay Johnson to get on the court for the first time since the Aztecs’ season opener against Fullerton.

Occidental College came ready to play, scoring the first points of the game and forcing the Aztecs into two early turnovers. Senior guard Sydney Shipp got off to a good start making his first two shot attempts of the game. The Tigers started off in a 2-3 zone defense and were able to hold the Aztecs to three points up until the 16:25 mark of the game when Mensah scored his first post basket, followed by an emphatic dunk by Keshad Johnson.

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

The offense got the ball to Mensah early, coming off a dominating performance in the paint Tuesday night against the Anteaters. Mensah’s 6 ’10 frame attracted a lot of attention from the Tiger defense when posting up, leaving them vulnerable to the Aztecs three-point attack, which has been inconsistent up to this point in the season.

Just five minutes into the game, Dutcher replaced Mensah for his first stretch of play. Due to the heavy workload, the starting center has been responsible for through the first seven games of the season, Dutcher chose to only play him for nine minutes against the Tigers. The Aztecs immediately went to Jaedon LeDee in the post, where he was able to make a pass out to Lamont Butler, who converted the three wide-open three-point shot. Butler was shooting 28 percent from deep before the game but ended his cold streak by making two of his three attempts tonight despite playing a bit under the weather. The next possession down, the Aztecs went back to LeDee in the post, making his first field goal of the game.

With Dutcher’s leading scorer on the bench cheering on his teammates, the Aztecs looked to see who would be the spark to get them going tonight. Before today’s matchup, freshman Elijah Saunders and Myles Byrd had only earned five shot attempts total between the two of them in the first eight games due to the amount of skilled seniors on this year’s roster. With 13:15 to go in the first half, Saunders scored his first points of the season, cutting down the middle of the lane coming off another assist from LeDee

The Aztec defense forced seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play, stretching the lead to 22-10 at the 10:29 mark. The game held an up-and-down pace with four threes made in a row, two from Seiko leading to a breakout transition dunk for Myles Byrd with. 8:37 left

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

The Scarlet and Black shot 63% in the first half of play and forced the Tigers into ten early turnovers with their relentless defense and length. With all the effort the Tigers put in to stop the easy buckets in the paint, the Aztecs did not hesitate to make them pay, attempting their season-high in three-pointers in just the first half of playmaking 13 of 22. They demonstrated how dangerous of a team they can be when they can be a consistent threat from deep.

Adam Seiko, who made a halfcourt shot before tonight’s game, started the game hot. He finished with 17 points in the first half, making five of seven from three-point range. The sixth-year returner was a spark off the bench and set his career high in points in the first half. His previous career high was an away game against Air Force in January of the 2020-2021 season when he contributed 14 points in the win.

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

After a basket in the paint from Occidental guard Anthony Hollerich, The Aztecs went on a 14-2 run making it 45-22 with Adam Seiko continuing his hot streak, letting the crowd know about it with his hand stare celebration, and 4:40 left to play in half. The Aztec defense stayed consistent and went into halftime holding a 30-point lead up 59-29. Coach Dutcher added, “If there’s any carryover, it would be that it’s fun to see the ball go in and to shoot with some confidence moving forward for the rest of the year.” 

Bradley and the group wasted no time at the start of the second half, starting off with a Mensah post score followed by a Matt Bradley three point basket. The long-rangthree-pointid not wear off, helping the Aztecs jump out to a 10-4 lead to start the half. This is the first zone defense the team has seen this year, and Dutcher says, “we’ve been working on zone offense, but to actually see it in the arena with fans in, to move the ball in and out.” He added, “ we function okay against zone, so it’s good to see some zone.”

With the lead stretching out to 74-35 to give the Aztecs their largest lead of the game , Dutcher was able to play multiple lineups to attack the zone, including 11 minutes of play for senior Jared Barnett. On the other end, the defense did not let up, allowing just nine points through the first eight minutes of second-half action. 

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With the lead stretching out to 74-35 to give the Aztecs their largest lead of the game , Dutcher was able to play multiple lineups to attack the zone. On the other end, the defense did not let up, allowing just nine points through the first eight minutes of second-half action. 

With 4:28 to go , Jared Barnett made the three to set the record for most made three-pointers by the Aztecs in a game since the year 1996. Cade Alger pushed the record to 19 the possession after on his second made three-point shot of the season. They went on to beat the Tigers, winning 95-57. The Aztecs return Monday for another tough non-conference matchup against another team who plays zone defense in Troy. 

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