San Diego State’s Senior Guard Had 28 Points In The Win
The Aztecs will hear its named called on Selection Sunday for the first time since 2015
SDSU rallied to pick up the Mountain West’s automatic bid
San Diego State knocked off New Mexico 82-75 in the Mountain West Tournament championship game to advance to its first NCAA Tournament since 2015.
Trey Kell led the Aztecs in scoring with 28 points, as he had a number of clutch baskets down the stretch to prevent New Mexico from overtaking the lead. The senior guard had a magnificent second half, converting a massive layup in traffic with 1:34 remaining to extend SDSU’s lead from 74-69 to 76-69. Kell was later named tournament MVP.
New Mexico, again, started hot out of the gates. The Lobos were 5-6 from the field at the first media timeout while San Diego State missed six of its first seven shot attempts. New Mexico opted to press SDSU after each of its made baskets early on to set the tempo.
Ball security was an issue early for San Diego State, but the Aztecs rallied around Devin Watson, who had three of SDSU’s first five baskets, including a pair of three-pointers. Watson finished with 12 points, while Malik Pope added 16 including a number of highlight dunks and finishes at the rim.
San Diego State outscored New Mexico by nine over the final 17 minutes and change in the first half. SDSU seized a 29-23 lead after a Trey Kell and-one, but New Mexico answered with three-pointers by Anthony Mathis and Antino Jackson. The remainder of the first half was back-and-forth, with San Diego State holding a slim 39-38 advantage at the break.
Early second half was all San Diego State. The Aztecs knocked down five of its first six attempts to start the final period and continued to assert itself on the offensive boards.
New Mexico heated back up, as a Makuach Maluach lay-in with 7:39 remaining extended UNM’s lead to 63-57. San Diego State clamped down, though, as Kell hit a pair of free throws, Jeremy Hemsley knocked down a three-pointer and then Max Montana converted a momentum-shifting four-point play in the corner to give San Diego State the lead for the rest of the night.
Not only was SDSU great on the offensive end, but it forced New Mexico into bad looks, as the Lobos had two separate instances where it didn’t make a field goal over three minute stretches.
Down the stretch Trey Kell entered takeover mode, using his senior savvy to put the game on ice.
Kell hit a jumper and followed it up with a contested three-pointer to put SDSU out ahead 71-65. He tallied 21 second-half points off 7-9 shooting from the field and a number of key free throws down the stretch, going 6-7 at the line.
“I felt like they couldn’t — they didn’t have an answer for it,” Kell said after the game. “So, the main thing I just wanted to keep running and see if they made an adjustment. I am glad it worked out for us.”
Instead of wearing San Diego State as the game progressed, it was New Mexico that struggled to close. An Anthony Mathis layup with 15 seconds was UNM’s only basket in the final three minutes. In the end, it wasn’t enough to top Brian Dutcher and SDSU.
“I was really proud of these guys. I don’t get that emotion very often,” New Mexico head coach Paul Weir said in the postgame press conference.
With the win, San Diego State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Seniors Trey Kell and Malik Pope were the only members from that year’s team that will be playing in next week’s tournament game.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied at all,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said.
San Diego State will wait to hear its named called on Selection Sunday. The Aztecs have won nine straight and figure to be a trendy upset pick as a likely double-digit seed.
The Mountain West expects to have two tournaments this year, with San Diego State as an auto bid and Nevada as an at-large.