Aztecs bringing a winning streak into match-up with Creighton

Credit: East County Magazine

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Credit: Daily Aztec

The San Diego State Aztecs are bringing a winning streak into a match-up with Creighton

SDSU Men’s Basketball team moved to 6-0 during a stretch of three wins in a total of six days. Last Wednesday, the Aztecs took down city rival USD. Friday, they beat Long Island University, and on Monday, they beat a gritty Tennessee State 49-62.

The TSU Tigers stepped up defensively and limited the Men on the Mesa to only 25 points in the first half. Junior guard Malachi Flynn facilitated his team’s attack and led the Aztecs with 11 points and three assists. Yanni Wetzell, a fifth-year senior from New Zealand, had ten points on the night and is beginning to establish his presence at the bottom of the key. Before that, Wetzell posted 20 points against USD and 13 points on Long Island University. San Diego’s combination of the two big men in Wetzell and Nathan Mensah has helped to give the Aztecs a definite advantage under the rim.

The Aztecs look strong, and coach Brian Dutcher is finally beginning to make individual strides away from Steve Fisher’s shadow. Dutcher recruited the current Aztecs, and these players are showing more confidence in his game plan. From the coaches to the players, the 2019/2020 Aztecs are a solidified unit where everyone knows and executes their responsibilities on and off the court.

In recent seasons the Aztecs have looked bewildered in close games, searching for a leader to take the clutch shot or just a player willing run the offense with conviction. Newcomers like KJ Feagin, Wetzell, and Flynn have stepped up in a big way and given the team a shot of assurance.

Another bright spot so far this season is the resurgence on junior Matt Mitchell, who has been a significant contributor off the bench this season.

Mitchell put up 18 points against Long Island. This season, Mitchell is showing more court awareness by pursuing the ball, boxing out under the rim, and sparking offensive runs. With the experience of last season, his tenacity has grown along with his comfort level, and it shows not only in his stat line but in the boost he provides when he steps on the hardwood. Mitchell’s defense has also improved with the rest of the team.

Defensively, SDSU is suffocating their adversary’s offenses with their two big rebounders. Last year the Aztecs defensively looked aloof or even sometimes disinterested.  They played like they deserved to win rather than playing to earn a win and lost games they should have won. At face-value, the 2018/2019 Aztecs took last season for granted; they lost their conference championship and missed an NCAA tournament berth. The 2019/2020 Aztecs are different, there aren’t marquee names, and the success they earn will be won with grit, composure, and a refusal to be intimidated by any opponent.

On Thanksgiving night, the Aztecs will close out the first day of the Las Vegas Invitational against Creighton out of the Big East Conference.

The Aztecs tip-off at 7:30 pm and are entering a stretch of games that will either complement their season’s resume or damage their chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Creighton is coming off a win over North Florida. Their season’s only loss was to Michigan. The Aztecs know how valuable these non-conference games can be at the end of the regular season when they are praying for a bid to March Madness.

The Aztecs beat Creighton in their previous meeting back in 2013. The winner of Thursday’s match-up will face off against Texas Tech or Iowa, and whoever wins the tournament should be ranked nationally. The Aztecs plan on stepping up to the competition and carving out a place for themselves in the national conversation about college basketball’s best teams.

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