Aztecs Eliminate Air Force 73-60 In Mountain West Quarterfinals
Jordan Schakel sinks five 3-pointers tying his career high.
San Diego State advances to the Mountain West Championship semi-finals to face Boise State next.
Las Vegas, NV- This game was a tale of two halves.
Air Force (12-20) gave San Diego State (29-1) a real scare leading into the half during their Mountain West Championship Tournament quarterfinals match. The Aztecs re-tooled during halftime, returning to completely dominate the second half for a decisive 73-60 victory.
“It’s Thursday, but it felt like a Saturday championship game the way the two teams played and slugged at each other,” Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said. “We were good today. We did some really good things.”
AJ Walker scored 18 points for Air Force, which advanced by beating Fresno State on Wednesday. Walker came off a 24-point game against the Bulldogs.
Seniors Caleb Morris (12 points) and Sid Tomes (10 points) were the other Falcons in double figures.
“Credit to (the Aztecs),” Tomes said. “That’s why they’re ranked so high in the country.”
Air Force shot 60% in the first thanks to Walker, who made 14 points in the first half. His 3-pointer with 39.2 seconds left drove a 37-33 halftime lead for the Falcons.
Then the Aztecs roared back with a powerful second half performance.
Jordan Schakel scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Schakel, who shot 1 of 5 in the first half, sank four 3-pointers in the second half.
The Aztecs managed a 21-3 run, sealing their 13th straight quarterfinal victory.
“Nothing different happened, I just had to keep shooting” said Schakel. “My teammates continued to keep finding me and believing in me, so I thank them for that.”
Yanni Wetzell and Malachi Flynn produced 16 points each for San Diego State, which is currently is seeking a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Flynn, the Mountain West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, had three steals, seven rebounds and eight assists to offset a less-than-stellar 4-of-10 shooting performance.
Flynn attributed Air Force’s start to making tough shots.
“A lot of the shots were just good shots on their part,” he said. “We have to give credit where credit is due.”
But the Falcons shot just 27.3% in the second, opening the door for the Aztecs.
Air Force took a 44-39 lead on Morris’ 3-pointer. After a dunk from Wetzell, Schakel then hit back-to-back 3s that gave San Diego State its first lead since early in the first half.
“To be a shooter, you have to have extreme confidence,” Schakel said. “I think everyone on this team has extreme confidence.”
Matt Mitchell hit San Diego State’s fifth 3 of the half for a 60-47 lead with 7:05 remaining, capping off the run.
Air Force went on a 9-2 run to make it 62-56 with 3:46 remaining, but the Aztecs went on a 9-4 stretch capped off by Schakel’s fourth 3 of the half to make it 71-60.
“They had their run, and they played like their season was on the line,” Wetzell said. “We do definitely have to get off to a better start.”
Schakel’s five 3-pointers tied a career high set against BYU on Nov. 19, 2019.
San Diego State: Plays Boise State on Friday, March 6th.