San Diego State and Utah State have been two of the Mountain West Conferences most competitive and memorable opponents the past few seasons. Wednesday night’s matchup between the Aztecs and the Aggies lived up to the fiery games of recent memory.
Coach Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs were a juggernaut offensively defeating the Aggies 85-75 before an announced crowd of 12,239 fans at Viejas Arena. Behind a career-high 25 points from Adam Seiko, the Aztecs held on to push the Aztecs record to 16-4 overall and 7-1 in Mountain West Conference play.
Utah State is the best three-point shooting team in the country, but in the first half you would excuse anyone who was confused as to which team on the court actually held that title. Adam Seiko caught fire beyond the arc, shooting a perfect 5-5 from three during an 18-0 run over six minutes.
During this gigantic stretch the Aztecs took the lead from 12-11 to 30-11, and never looked back.
SDSU seemed unstoppable behind the arc, shooting 54% from the field, as they outplayed the Aggies in every statistical category. The addition of some timely shots after the final media timeout kept the game manageable for Utah State going into halftime. Nevertheless, the stage was set for a complete and dominant victory.
More Bully Ball
Though the high scoring output is the headline of this game, it’s on the defensive and rebounding end where the outcome was shaped first and foremost. That defensive mentality was shown abundantly clear from the whole team.
On the defensive side of the ball the Aztecs were elite, playing tight against the Aggies. Stopping penetration and forcing the Aggies to take tough, contested shots was on the days agenda.
The Aggies usual shot attempts were just not falling as they shot 32% from the field, 20% from three, amounting to a mere 27 points in the first half.
Senior forward Keshad Johnson exemplified this when he set the tone for the team and electrified the home crowd when he stuffed his opponent’s dunk attempt off a pick & roll.
Johnson’s put-back tip in of a Darrion Trammell shot off the rim drew contact and the foul. With his activity this night Johnson’s 11 points was second in scoring behind Adam Seiko and his 10 rebounds overwhelmingly led the team, earning him a double-double.
Nathan Mensah’s 10 points and Jaedon LeDee’s 9 also contributed to a tough & physical performance from the front court that is beginning to really take shape against Mountain West opponents.
Though the team only had a 3 rebounding advantage over the Aggies, the tone was set and the lead was helped made insurmountable in the second half.
The Inevitable Cool-down
Seiko who had missed the previous game and road trip to Colorado Springs against Air Force, was deadly from three point range in the first half. It carried over into the 2nd as he nailed his career high 7th shot from beyond the arc. But as usual, no big lead is too safe with the Aztecs and the Aggies were bound to catch their groove.
It is hard to keep a hot-shooting team like the Aggies out of it all night. Utah State went back to their nation’s best shooting ways in the second half and fought back feverishly. What was once a 20-point deficit was now brought down to within six points with just four minutes to go.
The Aggies caught fire putting up 48 points in the 2nd half led by Taylor Funk’s 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting and Sean Bairstow’s 18 points. But it was all too little too late. The Aggies leading scorer on the season Steven Ashworth was scoreless most of the night and his 8 points to close it out just never made the kind of impact it normally would.
Despite the Aggies performance in the second half, the Aztecs kept up their part, shooting 50% from the field and 56% from three-point range in the second half. This allowed San Diego State to keep up pressure and suffocate USU with the dwindling game clock.
Down the stretch the Aztecs counter-punched each Aggie attack. With a little over two minutes left in the game the Aztecs brought the lead back up to double digits when Darrion Trammell found a wide open Lamont Butler in the corner to hit a dagger of a 3 point shot.
A big note to not forget is the sustained free throw success. Seiko knocked down some clutch free throws at the end to solidify the victory and the Aztecs finished 17 of 20 in attempts. More than doubling the Aggie’s attempts.
The Aztecs now host an improving San Jose State squad on Saturday at Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena. Tip time is scheduled for 6 pm.