San Diego State’s struggles from the floor re-emerged in their Mountain West opener, but they managed to win 62-55 on the road at UNLV. All this despite SDSU missing multiple starting guards.
The Aztecs shot just 33.8% from the floor. The 6th time, the Aztecs have shot under 40% from the field this season. SDSU was awful from behind the arc, hitting just 3-for-15 from downtown. However, UNLV also struggled, and the Aztecs outrebounded the Rebels 52-37, including 16 offensive rebounds for the Aztecs.
UNLV started fast, leading 20-13 nine minutes into the game, but the Aztecs went on a 14-5 run over the next six minutes to take the lead. In the second half, both teams continued to struggle from the floor, although the Aztecs held a slim lead throughout before pulling away down the stretch to win by seven. Matt Bradley scored 17 points, Chad Baker-Mazara and Aguek Arop combined to score 20 off the bench, and the Aztecs rode their suffocating defense to start their Mountain West campaign with a win.
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San Diego State was missing starting guards Trey Pulliam and Lamont Butler Jr. Adam Seiko, who doesn’t typically play point guard played 38 of 40 minutes at the point and played excellent defense, which was huge for the Aztecs. Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher praised Seiko for his performance and also talked about how we wasn’t phased by UNLV’s full-court press that was directed at him.
The Aztecs couldn’t spread around their scoring, as just seven players scored in the game, and only five made multiple baskets. Matt Bradley led the Aztecs in scoring with 17 points, but he went just 5-for-18 from the floor. While Chad Baker-Mazara had a career game, scoring 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Baker-Mazara, a sophomore, was averaging just 3.8 points per game going into the game, and he’d never scored more than seven points in a game before. “We needed people like Chad (Baker-Mazara) to step up, and they did that.” Keshad Johnson said after the game.
— San Diego State Men’s Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) January 1, 2022
The Aztecs also got solid games from Johnson, who posted a double-double, Aguek Arop, who scored nine and got eight rebounds off the bench, and Nathan Mensah, who scored 10 points. UNLV scored just 12 points in the final 13 minutes, with five of them coming in the final 30 seconds. The Aztecs were physically dominant, getting 14 more rebounds than the Rebels, and they used the extra possessions well. The Aztecs were forced to play with three forwards, while UNLV decided to counter with four guards. Head coach Brian Dutcher talked about how it allowed the Aztecs to attack the rim. “We did a great job of switching off to set up good matchups,” Keshad Johnson said. The Aztecs defense critically were able to shut down the Rebels, who shot under 30% from the floor.
Trying to score on San Diego State is like trying to get blood from a stone. Eight of the Aztecs’ opponents have scored 60 points or less. The years change — San Diego State’s defense does not.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 1, 2022
The Aztecs still struggled with their shooting, and they made just 15 out of their 24 free throws, which is going to come back and haunt them at some point this season. The Aztecs also had just six assists, as they struggled to create open looks. However, they did enough to win, and a road win against a solid UNLV team is a good way to start the new year. The same recipe of stellar defense and just enough offense continues to work for the Aztecs, who currently are the “First Team Out” in ESPN’s Bracketology. The Aztecs will host Fresno State on Wednesday, and the Bulldogs are coming off a loss to Boise State to open their conference play.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.