BYU Vanquished 76-71 By Aztecs In Provo
Favored Cougars fail to close at home against Brian Dutcher’s Aztec squad in another-hard fought battle.
Jordan Schakel caught fire in the second half, raining three’s to help break up a 16-0 runaway for the aggressive Cougars.
Provo, UT- BYU (1-1) vs. San Diego State (2-0) is an epic rivalry with every match fought tooth and nail. Saturday’s match was no different, as was the reality that a single clutch three-pointer sank the hearts of Cougars fans in the last two minutes of the game.
The Aztecs entered the Marriott Center (12,567 in attendance on Saturday) with NCAA-leading offensive rebounding early in this season. That momentum, along with an unwillingness to be disheartened by a conspicuous lack of Cougars foul calls, helped them secure an important 76-71 non-conference win Saturday afternoon.
The game marked the anniversary of undoubtedly the most memorable game ever played at the Marriott Center: Kawhi v. Jimmer. In 2011, Jimmer Fredette scored 43 points to help the then No. 9-ranked Cougars rout the Aztecs who were ranked No. 4 entering the game. BYU handed them their first loss of the season with a final score of 71-58.
During Saturday’s game, televised only on BYU TV, announcers whimsically commented that “it’s nice when the referee’s just let the players play,” followed by another comment on whether or not the refs should test their whistles.
It’s doubtful the Aztecs players, coaches and fans quite agreed, with the humor- especially late in the second half when Malachi Flynn received a very timely foul call without so much as touching T.J. Haws sending Haws to the charity stripe with a potential to cut a two-possession Aztecs lead into just one.
In Saturday’s game BYU was out-rebounded 43-27 for the game, including some vital boards in the final stretch. That plus 36.4% shooting in the first half and 33.3% 3-point shooting for the game resulted in the first loss of the season for new coach Mark Pope’s Cougars.
SDSU managed 26 offensive boards in its opening win over Texas Southern, putting it on top of the NCAA in that category- at least for one game. They managed 15 against BYU, versus four for the Cougars, and scored 14 points on second-chance attempts.
Some of the disparity can be attributed to the Cougars’ shorter lineup. The Aztecs had two 6-foot-10 players in its lineup. BYU had none taller than 6-9 center Kolby Lee, who has been starting since Yoeli Childs is serving a nine-game suspension.
The Aztecs won the first half, and were led by Malachi Flynn whose sharpshooting helped send them into halftime with a 36-29 lead.
During the start of the second half, the Cougars suddenly couldn’t miss. The arena got so loud that players couldn’t hear their coaches calling from the sideline. The Aztecs watched their nine-point lead, scoring at the onset of the second half, become a nine-point deficit in a little over 5 minutes.
Junior wing Jordan Schakel helped snap the ferocious 16-0 run with a clutch 3-pointer. Schakel then CAUGHT FIRE in the second half, scoring 17 of his career-high 19 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Five came behind the arc, while four came in the final six minutes. Every shot was nothing but net.
According to Schakel, “I was just locked in on the game, just trying to win. We were playing great defense. We just needed offense to get us back in the game.”
Malachi Flynn added 17 points, five assists and three steals, although he sputtered with second-half accuracy (6 of 17) and turned the ball over a three times at that point.
K.J. Feagin’s ultra clutch 3-pointer was like an ice dagger in the hearts of the Cougars fans, and it pretty much sealed the game and gave him 12 points with nine in the first half.
Nathan Mensah had seven points and 11 rebounds, five of them- offensive. Matt Mitchell came off the bench again, and the Aztecs were plus-13 points with him on the floor.
BYU got 18 points from transfer Jake Toolson. Fellow guards T.J. Haws (13) and Arizona transfer Alex Barcello (11) were in double figures as well. And BYU outshot the Aztecs (44.6 to 44.3 percent), a stat that almost always means you win.
This match was a key early season indicator for the 2019-20 Aztecs squad, featuring many new faces- some transfers and some freshmen. There are plenty of returnees. The product is a mountain of talent.
The Aztecs pulled out a gutsy win against a very good Cougars squad.
The Aztecs face Grand Canyon University on November 13th at Viejas Arena for yet another key pre-conference test.