Size, defense, and a dominating second half helped the No. 24 San Diego State Aztecs defeat the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils. The Aztecs controlled the paint and the pace of the game, winning 80-68 on the road Thursday night.
No. 24 San Diego State Aztecs Defeat No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe
ASU loves to run the court, and the Sun Devils were looking to take advantage of a shorthanded Aztecs’ squad. SDSU traveled without three scholarship players due to the contact tracing protocol. Though Keshad Johnson was expected to be the only contributor of the absent group, Keith Dinwiddie and Che Evans still provided necessary bench support.
SDSU Head Coach Brian Dutcher told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “We didn’t have our full allotment of players, but we never use that as an excuse.”
In order for a fast-paced team to start their break, they must rebound the basketball on the defensive end. A quick outlet, fleet feet and handles, and crisp rapid passing then lead to a score seconds later—if everything goes to plan. SDSU had an efficient counter for ASU’s scheme, however.
At times, the Aztecs would drop three players back on defense to preventatively combat a fast break after a miss. Yet, SDSU’s size advantage at center and power forward proved to be even more frustrating to the Sun Devil’s break.
Dutcher explained to the Associated Press, “Those guys did a great job on their own. It was a real key to the game.”
Nathan Mensah was especially dominating for the Aztecs. The junior forward finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of each coming in the first half alone. SDSU outscored ASU 36-9 in the paint and outrebounded the Sun Devils 44-37, including 11 on the offensive glass. They earned 17 second-chance points from those rebounds.
Defensive and Offensive Efficiency
ASU was averaging 84.5 points per game entering the matchup against SDSU. The Sun Devils were forced to settle for mid-range jump shots and chances beyond the perimeter. In the second half, ASU missed 11-straight shots and was held scoreless for eight minutes as the Aztecs pulled away. The defensive pressure and size were just too much for Bobby Hurley’s team.
Hurley said, “I give credit to San Diego State…[they] outplayed us, were more physical, more resilient.”
Most notably, the Aztecs kept preseason All-American Remy Martin in check. The star ASU guard settled for a measly nine points and shot 25 percent from the field.
It wasn’t just SDSU’s smothering defense that limited the Sun Devils, it was also their offensive productivity that controlled the flow of the game. Led by Jordan Schakel’s 25 points, the Aztecs shot 44.3 percent from the field in comparison to the 34.5 percent heaved up by the Sun Devils. They also dished out 14 assists as a team, turned the ball over less, and committed fewer fouls than ASU.
Size, defense, and efficiency led to yet another convincing win for SDSU. ASU is the second Pac-12 team the Aztecs defeated (UCLA Bruins) this young season, and it’s the 17th-straight non-conference win for the program.
SDSU hosts the BYU Cougars on Dec. 18 at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs should climb in the polls next week, and a win against BYU will only strengthen their resume. BYU lost to another Mountain West foe on Wednesday night, falling to Boise State.
It will be an entertaining and interesting matchup, to say the least. The West Coast Conference and Mountain West are two strong mid-majors looking for multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament in March. For both the Aztecs and Cougars, this will be one of the last key non-conference games.
Be sure to tune to CBS on Dec. 18 at 5 pm ET for some quality basketball—if you’re into that sort of thing, of course.
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