Tyler Perches – Contributing Writer
The Aztecs headed into the NCAA Tournament looking to get their first win since Brian Dutcher took over as the head coach six years ago. On Thursday, the Aztecs came out victorious, and ripped the monkey off his back, by beating the 12th-seed College of Charleston Cougars 63-57.
During the game, the Aztecs shot 42.9%(24-56) from the field, 25%(4-16) from beyond the arc, and 61.1%(11-18) from the free throw line. While the College of Charleston only shot 32.1% (18-56) from the field, 20.8% (5-24) from the three, and 84.2% (16-19) from the charity stripe.
The media darlings Charleston came out of the gates full speed ahead and it showed. The Aztecs most known for their sluggish starts in afternoon games, showed their jetlag as it took a few minutes to get adjusted to the Cougars speed on the court.
Early turnovers plagued the Aztecs from getting in rhythm and with each one Charleston’s home crowd atmosphere grew a little louder & louder.
The player of the game for the Aztecs was guard Matt Bradley. Bradley was the only Aztec to score in double figures with 17 points. Bradley also grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out four assists.
After having a poor performance in the NCAA tournament last year, Bradley stepped up when the team needed him most, shooting 7-15 from the field, 1-4 from beyond, and 2-3 from the free throw line.
Most notably, Bradley didn’t try to force things on the offensive side. Whenever he had the basketball he always made the right decision—if it was driving to the hoop to score, or passing to the open teammate. Always playing through the Aztec system, when the Aztecs were stalling out on offense, his aggressiveness came out at just the right times, and usually good things happened.
Bradley made shots from all over the floor. He used his big frame to drive to the hoop to get as close to the hoop as possible. Bradley also put his tremendous skill of shooting the basketball to display. He was especially efficient in the mid-range area. He would rise high over his defenders to knock down tough jumpers.
This fine performance from the super-senior was not without pushback from Charleston. The Cougars engaged in a back & forth all day with the Aztecs. Though fouls seemed to be balanced, some timely whistles seemed to keep the game from ever getting too far out of reach when the Aztecs began to pull away.
The Aztecs bench had a very, strong performance in the victory. Off the bench, the Aztecs played 4 players who combined for 24 points. Forward Jaedon LeDee put up the best performance out of the bench players.
LeDee scored 8 points and grabbed a team-high 10 points. LeDee bullied his defenders to the hoop to get easy baskets. He used that 240-pound to position himself perfectly on the rebounding side of things. He grabbed three offensive rebounds which led to more opportunities at the basket.
Aguek Arop had a phenomenal game, who also came off the bench. Arop scored 8 points, had 3 rebounds, and stole the ball twice. Arop had an extremely valuable 21 minutes of play. On the offensive side, he used his great post moves to get nice, and easy looks where he knocked them. On the defensive side of things, he used his length, and hustle to make the Cougars have a difficult time.
The Game Was Over When …
Big Shot Micah Parrish hit the huge three pointer. Every point the bench scored was crucial, but none was bigger than the dagger three point shot by Micah Parrish. Coming off a curl screen Arop gave a soft hand off to Micah as he squared up at the top of the court straightaway.
The bucket gave the Aztecs a 58-53 lead and a five point cushion to work with as they moved forward to close the game out on the free throw line.
In the win, head coach Brian Dutcher is not only able to move this team forward, but this SDSU program forward without any trepidation. Getting the first victory under their belt should loosen up this years team moving forward into Saturday, but also should give some added confidence to eliminating any pause wether this staff could get it done in March.
In the loss, the College of Charleston had a few players who played well. They had three players who scored in double figures.
Forward Ante Brzovic led the Cougars in today’s contest with 12 points and 8 rebounds. He made 5 out of his 13 shot attempts and knocked down all two of his free throws. He was a major problem for the Aztec defense.
Guard Ryan Larson also played pretty well scoring 11 points. Larson made four field goals, including one three-pointer, and knocked down all two of his free throws. Guard Dalton Bolon also scored in double figures with 10 points and snatched 4 rebounds. He shot well from beyond the arc when he hit 2 out of 5 three-point attempts.
In the Aztecs’ next game, in the round of 32, they face off against the 13th-seed Furman University Paladins (28-7,15-3). The game will be played in Orlando, Florida at the Amway Center on Saturday at 9:10am PST.