The Aztecs played with the confidence of a tournament team.
The Aztecs led the Aggies wire-to-wire maintaining a 23-8 points-off-turnover advantage.
Good Bounce Back Game for the Aztecs
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — After a disappointing season-opening loss to Wyoming last Wednesday night in Laramie, the Aztecs were eager to show that the remote game in the bizarre 7220′ Arena-Auditorium was not going to set the tone for conference play.
From the start of the game, it was apparent which team was in charge. Moments after opening tipoff, Utah State junior forward Dwayne Brown Jr. turned the ball over and was benched while exchanging words with Aztecs redshirt freshman Jalen McDaniels.
McDaniels ominously pointed to the scoreboard, and the rest was history.
SDSU (9-4, 1-1 MW) handled Utah State (8-7, 1-1 MW) with a 79-59 victory at Viejas Arena last night for their first conference win of the season and Brian Dutcher’s first Mountain West Conference victory ever as head coach.
The Aztecs did not once trail in the game, and held a double digit lead for the whole second half.
“Good bounce back game for the Aztecs,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We had two good days of practice and we looked like it today when we played.”
The Aztecs had a 23-8 points-off-turnover advantage, which defined the game. The Aztecs jumped out to an early lead thanks to a 15-2 run within the game first 10 minutes, and went into the break up 43-29.
“(The turnovers) were really important,” Dutcher said. “We wanted to press. We thought we could cut the head off the offense. The turnovers were a bonus for us on that.”
Junior guard Devin Watson led the Aztecs with 15 points, followed by 14 points from junior forward Max Montana.
Montana said, “I’m finally getting my legs back, finally getting my rhythm… just trying to do the best I can to help this team. I felt pretty good tonight so that’s a good start.”
Senior forward Malik Pope (13 points, seven rebounds) tipped in his own missed shot for a 70-49 lead with 7:11 to play. Pope attributed the victory to “Just playing together as a unit finding each other, we definitely did a great job defensively.”
McDaniels joined his teammates in double figures with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Utah State sophomore guard Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 18 points, including 13 in the second half.“I thought they punched us in the mouth pretty well,” Merrill said. “That’s a good basketball team. We didn’t respond and that’s what happened.”
Other Utah State players in double figures were sophomore guard Koby McEwen (15 points, seven rebounds) and junior guard DeAngelo Isby (15 points, three rebounds).
The Aztecs travel to Fort Collins, Co. to face Colorado State on Tuesday, January 2nd.