The Aztecs Malachi Flynn shot off a three-point prayer to take the lead with 0.5 seconds in their home conference opener against the San Jose State Spartans. San Diego earned their tenth win on the season and their first AP national ranking since 2015. Flynn caught an overlapping pass behind the three-point line. He rose and clinched the win with a high arcing shot that sailed straight through the net and sent fans at Viejas Arena into a frenzy.
San Jose came into San Diego, determined to prove a point, and take down the team with the best record in the conference. The Spartans shocked the Aztecs and almost fractured a growing fan base that is just beginning to take notice. San Jose has never beaten the Aztecs, and they came in smelling an upset.
“As the only undefeated team east of the Mississippi River, we are going to get every team’s best shot, and the team we see on a video won’t be the team we see on the court. Teams will look to us as an opportunity to improve their resume, and coaches will strategize with unique game plans to beat us specifically.” Coach Dutcher explained
Against SJSU, San Diego was held under sixty points, which is a credit to the hard-nose style of defense that San Jose has grown accustomed to since transferring to the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs did not shoot well, but they withered the adversity, gutted out a nail-biter, and won 59-57. Flynn’s knack at scoring pivotal points when his team is in its most desperate circumstances is a crucial component to the Aztec’s early-season success.
Four days earlier, San Diego kicked off their conference schedule in the high-altitude Moby Arena against Colorado State. Flynn led the Aztecs in scoring with 23 points, and sixth man stand-out Matt Mitchell followed him with 18 points. The Colorado St. Rams put up an admirable fight and threatened to steal the match’s momentum toward the beginning of the second half. Still, the Aztecs relied on their defensive game plan and extinguished any hope of a Rams come back. Colorado State’s Hyron Edwards tied the score at 42-42 off an Aztec turn over about five minutes into the second half. Dutcher took a timeout to halt the change in momentum. San Diego Freshman Adam Seiko came out of the timeout and scored an emphatic three-pointer, and The Aztecs never looked back. SDSU went on a 37-15 run to take the game and earn its ninth victory winning 79-57.
The Aztecs made it through the early season storm, eked out of it unscathed, and now stand tall as the 25th ranked team in the nation. San Diego was determined to build a strong non-conference resume this year, and they have reached that goal. The squad is growing into a cohesive unit with a one-two punch in Flynn and Mitchell and two more than capable big men in Yanni Wetzell and Nathan Mensah. These Aztecs are adjusting to each other’s tendencies. Wetzell knows he can find Mensah down by the hoop if he is at the top of the arc, and Mitchell can trust his teammates to set a high screen to free him up in the paint. They are learning to play for each other, and the city of San Diego is beginning to take pride in them.
SDSU’s next game is against San Diego Christian University on December 18th at Viejas Arena.
Three days later, they play Utah in a neutral court game at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Utes of the Pac 12 conference are 7-2 thus far on their season and earned wins over the Mountain West’s Nevada and a victory they share with San Diego State over BYU. The 25th ranked Aztecs are gaining momentum, and the college basketball world is beginning to see. The SJSU game will serve as a wake-up call for an Aztecs team that has hopefully learned never to underestimate an opponent.
Tony Fantano is a native and current resident San Diegan who is all about pushing the city of San Diego to its full potential nationally and internationally. Tony earned a Bachelor’s in broadcasting and journalism from San Francisco State, where he learned the importance of civic pride. Tony wants to inspire readers everywhere to be their greatest and help each other pursue personal and civic prominence.