San Diego State vs. St. Mary’s: Preview, Who To Watch, Prediction
Aztecs come off of long break with potential to build a resume
WHO: San Diego State Aztecs (6-3) Vs St. Mary’s Gaels (10-2)
When: Wednesday, December 17th 10:00 PM ET/ 7:00 PM PT
Where: Phoenix, Arizona
STREAM: FLOSPORTS – $
San Diego State is coming off of an eight day span of no games in order to play St. Mary’s on a neutral court. It will be a rematch from last year where the Aztecs beat the Gaels 74-49.
The Aztecs are 6-3, but historically have struggled in games played after long breaks. Coach Dutcher usually likes to schedule some type of tuneup game to get his players back into game rhythm before playing a tough opponent like St. Mary’s. That will not be the case this time, however, so the Aztecs will have to find their rhythm against a Gaels team with the 9th ranked defense according to KenPom.
St. Mary’s 10-2, with both losses coming against top-40 KenPom teams. One of those losses was to another Mountain West team in Colorado St. The Gaels return almost all of their players from last season, and are looking to make the tournament for the first time since 2019.
Both teams have top-10 defenses (SDSU ranks 10th), so this game is looking like it will be a defensive slugfest where the first team to score 60 wins.
St. Mary’s is led by 5th year senior Tommy Kuhse, who is shooting a blistering 52% from the field and 50% from behind the arc. Their leading scorer is Dan Fotu. The 6’7” forward comes off the bench and scores in bunches, shooting 60% from the field and 48% from deep.
The Gaels main strength is their defense, where they force opponents to take tough twos in isolation.
The Aztecs have a couple players in Matt Bradley and Trey Pulliam who can score taking tough twos. Both have above average efficiency from the midrange area. Matt Bradley is slowly finding his way in the offense, scoring 22 points in each of the last two games on a shooting line of 50/44/86. Trey Pulliam will once again be asked to run the offense alone as Lamont Butler is still out with a fractured wrist.
Keys for St. Marys – St. Mary’s will look to frustrate the Aztecs offense. They’ve been stout all year and they don’t want SDSU to find a rhythm against them. They should look to shut down the paint and force the Aztecs to beat them from outside, where they’ve struggled all season. They’ll also want to wear down Pulliam over 40 minutes as the Aztecs do not have good backups at the point guard position. Offensively they will need to move the ball quickly and decisively to create holes in the Aztecs defense. Having a player like Tommy Kuhse run the offense will help immensely in that regard.
Keys for San Diego St. – The biggest factor for the Aztecs will be avoiding any rusty starts brought on by going 8 days without any games. If they fall behind early their lack of offensive efficiency will make it hard to come back, especially against a defense as good as St. Mary’s is. On the court they need to continue to rely on their defense. They need to force tough shots and not allow second chances the way they have been. Offensively they need to continue finding their rhythm and hit some shots. In addition to Matt Bradley having an efficient couple of games, Adam Seiko has shot 44% from deep in the last two games, and Chad Baker showed some flashes as well. If they can continue the trend they should score some points and give themselves a chance.
This will likely be a game where the first team to score 60 points wins. Things don’t look great for SDSU given their poor offense all season coupled with their history of playing poorly after coming off of long rests. St. Mary’s cohesion and ability to hit shots will likely prove the difference.
Prediction – St. Mary’s wins 64-60.