The #17 San Diego State Aztecs went from playing Ohio State of the Big 10 conference on day 1 to #14 University of Arizona of the Pac-12 conference on day 2 of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
The Aztecs came into the game 7-24 versus the Wildcats and 0-3 in neutral play. The last time the two teams matched up was on November 26th, 2014, in the very same tournament, just with different rosters. It was neck and neck throughout the contest, but the #3 University of Arizona got the better of the #15 Scarlet and Black 61-59 behind an 18-point performance from Stanley Johnson to win the invitational.
Arizona continued their success against SDSU with a 87-70 win in the semifinal game to get their 25th win against the Aztecs and fourth in neutral play. The Wildcats success was due to five players scoring in double digits and a total of 41 rebounds.
“There’s a reason why they’re ranked where they’re ranked,” assistant coach Chris Acker said. “There’s a reason they scored at the level they scored at.”
SDSU played against a roster of six players 6’9 or taller and two players at seven foot. Most of the Wildcats’ points came in the paint yesterday in their 101-93 win over Cincinnati, 52 points to be exact. The Aztecs knew that Arizona was going to bring that same playstyle , and they did just that.
After three turnovers by the Aztecs in the first five minutes led to 10 quick points for the Wildcats, Arizona never gave up the lead in the first half.
The Scarlet and Black had a late push at the end of the first half with some clutch buckets by Darrion Trammell and Micah Parrish to cut the lead to five and make it 37-32. Trammell had 10 points, went 4-7 from the field, and nailed one three-pointer. Parrish had five points and led the team with four defensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
The Arizona offense was led by 6’11 forward Azuolas Tubelis, who was hot with 14 points and went six for eight from the field, while Courtney Ramey had 12 points and went five for seven from the field in the first half.
The WWildcat’sdefense limited the Aztecs to 39% shooting, while SDSU limited Arizona to 52% and allowed 20 points in the paint. Arizona outrebounded SDSU 22 to 13 and was key to possession for the Wildcats in the first half.
After the Aztecs put up 19 bench points in the first 20 minutes against OSU, they only had ten against the Wildcats.
At the start of the second half, Keshad Johnson, with six quick points, helped the Aztecs to their first lead of the game.
The lead was kept short for the Scarlet and Black after Pelle Larson buried a three-pointer, then 7’0 Oumar Ballo made a lay-up and one for the Wildcats to extend the lead to 46-42.
The Aztecs kept the game within 10 points until Ramey drained his fourth three-pointer of the game to make it 55-45. The 6’3 guard was perfect beyond the arc until that point.
Parrish made a three-pointer to get the Aztecs to 48 points, but Arizona continued to have a sizable lead after that basket and never gave it up to hand the Scarlet and Black their first loss of the season..
The Wildcats finished 34-for-58 from the field, nine-for-20 beyond the arc, and 10-for-14 from the charity stripes.
Ramey finished with 21 points, eight for 12 from the field, and five-for-five from the arc, while Kerr Kriisa had a burst of points in the second half and ended with 21 points, six-of-14 from the field and three-for-10 beyond the arc. Three other players were in double digits
Acker complemented the Wildcats performance and knew it was going to be a tough game with a roster full of weapons.
“They got big guys they can throw it into , and they got perimeter guys that can shoot, dribble, and pass,” Acker said. “When you have multiple guys on the floor that can be dangerous at any point in time, all five guys have to be locked in defensively.”
The Wildcats shot 59% from the field on the #9 defense in the league, which showed how elite the Arizona offense is.
The Wildcats won in the paint, outscoring the Aztecs 36 to 28, but SDSU scored more points on turnovers, 23 to 14.
Lamont Butler did not fulfill head coach Brian Dutcher’s two assists to one turnover mark, as he had one assist and five turnovers. He finished with four points.
Trammell shot six-for-16 from the field with 21 points, while Parrish had 10 points and went four-for-seven from the field.
The Scarlet and Black were limited to 38% shooting, went 24-of-63 from the field, three-of-19 from beyond the arc, and 19-for-24 from the charity stripes.
Acker said the only focus postgame is to shake off the loss and learn from tonight’s mistakes and get ready for tomorrow.
“We got to play smarter. Our guys are still challenged, still massive,” Acker said. “We got exposed a little tonight, but we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
The Aztecs will play for third place tomorrow in the Maui Invitational against the #9 Arkansas Razorbacks at 7:00 pm.