The anticipated 2022-2023 SDSU Men’s basketball season tipped off Monday night with a secure 80-57 victory by the Aztecs. Viejas Arena was treated to a 48-32 second half barrage that saw the Aztecs run away with the game and send the fans to their early exits happy.
Darrion Trammell led all scorers with 18 points, Lamont Butler and Jaedon Ledee each had 11, and Nathan Mensah finished with 10 on the evening.
Overall on the night the Aztecs shot a 53.8% overall and 44% from 3-point. They led in several key statistical categories including 12-6 in steals, 18-6 in assists and 23 free throws made to CSUF’s 17.
The first half left some points on the floor as turnovers prevented them from running away with it early. But after encouraging his team to keeping their defensive intensity up and the shots will come, head coach Brian Dutcher’s team did just that.
Overall it was a game SDSU never had in doubt, though at times the pesky Titans would linger around. The Aztecs wanted to assert their dominance from the start and it was exactly that. On a game they clearly had in the bag, here are three factors that stood out the most.
Darrion Trammell’s Big Debut
The new transfer guard by way of Seattle U. flashed why he has been so highly touted in the off season. Trammell displayed right from the game’s opening moments his 3 point range when he sunk the first points for either team and set the tone for the Aztecs.
Finishing 4 of 5 from behind the arc, Trammell gives the Aztecs a second deadly shooter to pair with Adam Seiko, that the team did not consistently have last season. Though only standing at 5’10”, there was clearly never a problem getting open space to get his shots off.
The question coming in to the season was whether he would be the primarily ball handler at the point guard spot. But so far the move by coach Dutcher & staff to take advantage of his quickness and spacing on the floor as the off guard has shown to be correct the last two games, including the exhibition last week.
Darrion’s big scoring night propelled the Aztecs but his 3 steals on the defensive end should not be overshadowed as his presence in the backcourt looks to be a unique addition to this years defensive makeup.
Lamont Butler is an Assassin
Speaking of the back court. Point guard Lamont Butler coming into his junior season has often displayed his athletic magnificence as a defensive specialist. At times SDSU fans have witnessed his exciting steals turned to dunks and the way he aggressively can get to the rim on the offensive end. Monday he put together a game displaying an all around performance.
In his role as the primary ball handler Butler ran the offense on a different level when he was in the game. On the night he scored 11 points on 50% shooting including one 3 pointer. But his 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals just complete the story of his excellent evening.
This may truly be the year that Butler puts it all together on the court. The constant pressure of Butler’s defense is a tone setter for this Aztecs defense creating turnovers in the front court as well. On a night where he collected 3 fouls for his aggressiveness, it’s a trade off the Aztecs gladly take when you know the real impact his play has.
Along with Trammell, Seiko and Bradley this back court truly has the makings of something special. Oh and did we not mention Matt Bradley? The senior standout may have had a quiet night on the stat line, but his leadership & skills no doubt will come into play.
Nathan Mensah’s Invaluable Presence
All of Aztecs Nation jumped for joy when the news of SDSU big man and Mountain West defensive player of the year returned for his extra COVID season. Big expectations are set on the Center from Ghana and Monday night set the tone.
Nathan scored early and often to take advantage of the much smaller Fullerton defenders. His 5 of 6 from the field was efficient and his 6 rebounds played strong. Besides the dunks and short range putbacks, Mensah did have a nice touch on his shot from what he attempted.
But the play of the night was on defense. In the 2nd half the smaller Fullerton guard facing the shot clock winding down had to be aggressive and get his shot off. When switched on defense to face Mensah he attacked the rim squeamishly only to have big Nathan reject his weak attempt back down onto the Steve Fisher court and out of bounds. The media timeout took the teams to their respective benches and both sides knowing this game was in hand—Nathan Mensah’s hands.
Bonus: Jaedon Ledee
With transfer Jaedon Ledee making his debut down in the forward position it took him some minutes to assert himself and clean up his offensive performance. Ledee did however find his rhythm and finished the night with 11 points and 3 assists, after muscling back & forth down on the low blocks much of the night. With a couple of the easy bunnies going in next time, Jaedon could’ve easily finished the night with a much higher point total.
Looking forward to more action like this come this Friday night, Nov. 11, when the Aztecs host rival BYU at Viejas Arena at 7:30pm PST. Buy your tickets now here.