Viejas Arena, San Diego, California-
If you watched the first thirteen minutes of the game, you expected the Aztecs to breeze through the game. They looked like they couldn’t miss a shot if they tried. That all fell apart in the second period in which Colorado State completed one of the greatest comebacks in Mountain West Conference history.
The starting five for the Aztecs had Adam Seiko starting his first career game. He took the spot of Aguek Arop, who was out for a non-COVID related illness. Seiko made the most of this opportunity. All 12 of his points came from beyond the arc, where he shot 4-6 this game. On top of that, he recorded two rebounds and four assists in the 25 minutes of action he saw. His only flaw came when he received a technical for flopping then arguing the call.
In the first period, the Aztec offense looked their best all season. They finished the period making half of their 28 total field goal attempts and half of the 18 total 3-point attempts. This offensive surge was led by Terrell Gomez, who seems to have found his role in the offense. In the first half alone, he scored 14 points consisting of four three-point shots and a jump shot on a fast break. Despite his size, he was really aggressive on defense this game. When Colorado State set up a pick, he was ready to switch and defend players much taller than him. That aggressive mentality on defense got him four steals on the game while managing not to foul anyone all game.
As a team, the Aztecs scored 40 of their 67 points in the first period. A Matt Mitchell jumper with 7:04 in the first period would mark their highest lead of the game and the start of the downfall. SDSU would then fail to score for the next 5 minutes and 39 seconds, all while Colorado State scored 19 points. That massive drive brought SDSU’s lead down to just seven at the half.
The second period looked a lot more competitive, with Colorado State being the better team. This period didn’t see the massive scoring drives by either side. SDSU’s FG% fell to 31% in the second half as Colorado State rose their FG% to 43.3%.
A highlight of the struggling offense in the second period is Trey Pulliam. All game, Pulliam scored just two points, but usually, that doesn’t matter because he creates openings for other players. In the second period, he was 0-for-3 with a missed free throw. He did manage three-assist but also had three fouls and a bad turnover. It wasn’t just him that struggled. His teammates didn’t fare much better. In this period, Matt Mitchell II shot 2-for-7, Jordan Schakel 2-for-7, Gomez 2-for-6. Colorado State did improve their defense, but SDSU had open shots that they failed to make.
With all the struggles, that strong first half kept SDSU in the game for a long time. With less than two minutes left, the Aztecs still had an 8-point lead. With 12 seconds left in the game, John Tonje made a corner three to tie the game for Colorado State. On the shot, Schakel made contact with him, which caused Schakel to foul out and Tonje to make a lead changing free throw. That was just the first time Colorado State had the lead since they started the game with a 2-0 lead.
After the game coach, Brian Dutcher highlighted the last minutes of the game as SDSU still having a chance to win the game. “As badly as we played at times. We had a seven-point lead with a minute five (seconds) to go. So that should be enough to win the game, but we didn’t close the game. We didn’t make the plays down the stretch to close the game out, and they did”.
Due to COVID, the season schedule is quite different than normal. SDSU and Colorado State will be back in Viejas Arena on Monday to play again. Dutcher talked about taking an NBA mentality to bounce back and be ready for the next game on a fast-moving schedule. That will be a matchup to look for on Monday, especially after the wild loss today.