Viejas Arena- San Diego, California
SDSU finished their fourth game in eight days. What is especially unique is how teams have been playing back-to-back games to limit COVID exposure. Just two days ago, SDSU and Nevada battled it out, with SDSU narrowly taking the advantage. With his team tired, coach Brian Dutcher said he would let the team rest between games and just watch the tape.
Once again, the game was constantly competitive, with each team seemingly always in the game. SDSU managed a 10-point lead at times, but the margin was usually within a single-digit differential. This game did feature two tired teams that were able to get bigger stretches than the first game.
With games so close together, both teams made notables changes to their game plan. SDSU was able to pass the ball some more, and by doing that, they opened up the three-pointer a bit more. Nevada got aggressive in the paint and gave Nathan Mensah a battle for control.
What was the same as the previous game for SDSU was the team was led by Matt Mitchell II and Nathan Mensah on Saturday. In this game, the duo combined for 35 points and 14 rebounds. Once again, Mitchell led the team with a 20-point performance and collected eight of the previously mentioned 14 rebounds.
Mensah had a harder challenge. As the Aztecs’ prominent big man, his play is limited to posting up and pick and rolls. Nevada noticed how he burned them last game and took steps to limit his game. Many times, the Wolf Pack were quicker to defend Mensah, and he typically found himself doubled team once he got the ball in the paint.
This game was a nail biter to the very end. With the game tied and 36 seconds on the clock, Jordan Schakel hit a go-ahead three-pointer for the Aztecs. Once again, in back-to-back games, he has struggled to score but came up clutch in the final minutes of the game. Dramatically, Schakel fouls KJ Hymes, who brings the game within one point with 21 seconds to go. On the inbound, Nathan Mensah received the ball and was promptly fouled.
In the postgame, EVT’s Paul Garrison asked Dutcher if Mensah getting the inbound was by design. After all, Mensah is a sub .700 free throw shooter, and SDSU has players like Terrell Gomez, Schakel, and Mitchell, who are all great free-throw shooters. Dutcher said. “Yeah, with the ball stuck in the dead corner, I just thought he would be the most apt to get open because of his size. And usually, five men don’t deny, and I have great faith with Nate from the foul line”.
Dutcher was correct to put his trust in Mensah as he made both his free throw shots to give SDSU a three-point lead 17 seconds to go. Then comes Nevada’s hero Grant Sherfield. He is a star player that can do it all just like Mitchell for SDSU. Sherfield made a three-pointer to tie the game and give him 20 points, nine rebounds, four rebounds, and three steals on the game.
Dutcher admits he tried to use it with one timeout left, but the refs never game it to him. Trey Pulliam rushed down the court in those four remaining seconds and delivered a game-winning layup at the buzzer.
This sequence 😍 pic.twitter.com/duWqWtIqtu
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) January 10, 2021
After the game, Pulliam said, “I just knew I had four seconds on the clock, and Carlos always talked to us about how many how dribbles you could have in the amount of time you have. I knew I had four seconds, so I had four dribbles, so I just tried to get it down and get it up on the rim. I knew if I missed Nate or Matt would come try to clean it up, so I just tried to get a shot up”.
The Aztecs will finally have a chance to take a break. Dutcher said that tomorrow the entire team, including coaches, have the day off.
Their next two games will be at Utah State on January 14th and 16th.