Aztecs Make 73-58 Statement Win Over #22 UCLA
Seniors Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel each register 15 points for the Aztecs in their season opening game.
Maybe the Aztecs deserve to be ranked.
San Diego, CA- San Diego State (1-0, 0-0) kicked off its opening game on the Mesa at Viejas Arena against the #22 UCLA Bruins (0-1, 0-0). The Aztecs played disciplined, near-flawless basketball and effectively man-handled their talented opponents.
The Aztecs played selfless ball on both ends of the court with four players registering double digits. Aztec Seniors Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel both led the Aztecs with 15 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, and 15 points and 3 rebounds respectively. Aquek Arop scored 10 points and 4 rebounds off the bench, and impressive 5’8″graduate transfer guard Terrell Gomez also contributed 10 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound off the bench.
Mitchell, Schakel, Gomez and Trey Pulliam managed to rain three’s and the Aztecs as a team made 39.1% from beyond the arc. Nathan Mensah’s return gave the Aztecs a dominant defensive and shot blocking presence.
Only one thing impressed more than the prolific three point shooting: the Aztecs stole the ball again, and again and again.
The Aztecs bench also outscored UCLA’s bench 21-6, and this was another huge difference maker in the game.
UCLA was without key players Jalen Hill and transfer Johnny Juzang. Chris Smith, the Bruins’ only senior, committed his fourth foul midway through the second half and came out — and then fouled out with 4:47 to go. He scored 10 points in the first half, none in the second half.
Jaime Jacquez Jr. scored 17 points for UCLA, and Cody Riley had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The game was part of a multi-team event that also includes Pepperdine and UC Irvine. UCLA and SDSU had been scheduled to play in a bubble in Florida, but it fell apart. Coaches Brian Dutcher of SDSU and Mick Cronin of UCLA, longtime friends, quickly put together this event.
The Bruins, who went 19-12 last year and were picked to win the Pac-12 this season, played well for the first eight minutes before SDSU’s defense began to take its toll.
Mitchell hit a mid range jump shot to start an 8-0 run midway through the first half that gave the Aztecs a 23-19 lead. Joshua Tomiac scored and fellow senior transfer Gomez hit two free throws before Mensah sank a baseline jumper.
UCLA ended a six-minute drought when Smith made a one-handed jumper.
Jacquez made a layup to pull the Bruins to 30-28 and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Arop hit a layup and two free throws in the final minute for a 34-28 halftime lead.
At the start of the second half, sportscasters were quick to explain UCLA’s play, even though the Bruins returned nearly all of their dominant players. They did not however speak to SDSU’s dominant performance in light of losing Malachi Flynn, Yanni Wetzel and KJ Feagan.
The Aztecs blew it open and maintained full command of this game through the second half.
The Aztecs look sharp, and might just keep the momentum they generated last year. 2020-2021 could be another big year for San Diego State…