Viejas Arena- San Diego, California-
Despite a career game for Matt Mitchell, SDSU could not find their rhythm all game. BYU dominated the paint, the boards, and points off the bench. All three of which are typical strong points for SDSU.
From the start, SDSU was slow, which is par for them this season. Most of their games start with minimal scoring on both sides and gradually increases throughout the game. Typically, they will use a platoon swap and have the bench get some momentum for them.
The platoon consisting of Keshad Johnson, Adam Seiko, Terrell Gomez, Lamont Butler, and Joshua Tomiac only scored three combined points in their first four and half minutes of play. They also saw SDSU’s deficit increase five to eleven in that time. In total, the BYU bench scored 22 points to the SDSU 11 points off the bench.
The bench wasn’t the only problem SDSU encountered in this game. The two heroes against the ASU, Jordan Schakel and Nathan Mensah, were nearly nonexistent all game. Schakel earned MWC player of the week last week, and Mensah recorded career-high points and rebounds with 17 and 15, respectively.
Schakel seemed off and significantly less confident from the start of this game. He made 1-9 of his field goals, with a three-pointer being his only make all game. BYU did make a point of tightly defending him. He didn’t have open shots throughout the game and had to work a lot harder to get much space between him and his defender. Then in the final minutes of the game, he slipped and got called for a travel. That pivotal turnover helped BYU clinch the victory.
Last game Mensah dominated the paint and boards. Today Matt Haarms outmatched him. Most rebounds were a battle that Mensah was losing. Often, the ball would have to be tipped away to a guard instead of one of the two coming away with the ball. Mensah’s lack of inside bested is a big story for SDSU. BYU had a +14 rebound advantage in the game; of that, BYU had a +3 advantage on offensive rebounds.
Another storyline for Mensah is the fact that he scored eight points in 24 minutes. Those eight points ended up being the second-highest for the Aztecs. His time was limited due to reaching four fouls with some time left in the second period. He did end up fouling out for the fifth time in his career, although the last foul came in the final seconds when he was trying to stop the clock.
The one bright spot for the team was the performance by Matt Mitchell II. He made a career-high 35 points while tallying three rebounds, two assist, and two steals. 26 of the 35 points came in a monstrous second half. He helped lead SDSU from a 17-point deficit in the second half to tying the game with under two minutes in the game. In total, he made 12-17 FGs, 5-9 3FGs, and 6-7FTs.
That game-tying shot that he made may go down as one of the most exciting plays all season. Mitchell, in a 1v1 position, stole the ball from Caleb Lohner and delivered a huge dunk to tie the game for the first time since three minutes into the game.
In previous games this season, Mitchell has found some foul trouble. His strength and mobility usually cause him to rack up charges. This game, he limited his foul trouble to three, with just one of them being on the offensive side. This cleaner level of play made him so deadly he was able to score even when BYU double-teamed him.
After the game, when asked about his ability to make buckets this game, he said: “I saw their defense was fanning out a little bit and giving me space to work. Gave me room to get to the basket and get to my spots”.
BYU was the better team today, and the scoreboard shows that much. Matt Mitchell won’t be able to put up 35 points every game and shouldn’t need to. Schakel and Mensah each had weaker games than normal. The depth of SDSU did not put much pressure on BYU and give the starters a chance to catch their breath. Those weak spots this game won’t last for the season.
SDSU will have a shorter break than the 8-day stretch they just endured when they take on Saint Mary’s next Tuesday.