It was difficult to separate the San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team from the football team this past weekend.
“He might have been the only one that enjoyed that game,” Aztecs’ men’s basketball coach Brian Dutcher said of defensive-minded Aztecs’ football coach Rocky Long, who attended Dutcher’s post-game press conference after a 59-57 victory over San Jose State on Sunday. “It was a defensive struggle.”
The Aztecs, the No. 1 team in the first Nevada Appeal Mountain West basketball rankings of the season, beat San Jose State on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Malachi Flynn. The Aztecs were 5-of-16 (31 percent) on threes and 20-of-63 (32 percent) against the Spartans.
“It was fun,” said Dutcher, whose Aztecs are the last undefeated team in the Mountain West at 10-0. “I told the guys, ‘College basketball is the greatest game ever. I would have told them that win or lose.”
The Aztecs are now 2-0 in the Mountain West after wins over San Jose State and Colorado State (79-57) last week. Flynn, a 6-foot-1 transfer from Washington State, had 23 points against Colorado State and nine against San Jose State.
“It felt good as soon as it left my hands,” said Flynn of his game-winning shot against San Jose State.
“That’s what he does,” said Dutcher of Flynn. “That’s why he’s here, to take important shots.”
The Aztecs’ 10-0 start is their best since they started 20-0 in 2010-11 with Kawhi Leonard.
No. 8 San Jose State (3-7, 0-2) also lost to UCLA (93-64 on Dec. 1) and Utah State (71-59) last week. Seneca Knight had 43 points combined in the three losses.
“We’re not afraid,” San Jose State coach Jean Prioleau said. “We’re going to put our feet forward and put our noses into the fight. I’m going to do everything I can to change the culture of men’s basketball at San Jose State.”
The Spartans had taken a 57-54 lead on the Aztecs after a 3-pointer by Brae Ivey (13 points) and a basket by Knight.
“I think they (San Diego State) played as well as they could and we were right there in their face,” Prioleau said.
“I told our team that whatever team you see on tape, for the rest of the year that’s not the team you’ll see on the floor because we’re 10-0,” Dutcher said. “We’re a measuring stick for teams. San Jose State played a magnificent game. They came in here and they punched us.”
San Diego State leads the Mountain West in defense, allowing just 57.5 points a game.
No. 2 Utah State beat San Jose State and Fresno State (77-70) last week to improve to 9-1, 2-0. Sam Merrill had 24 points and eight rebounds against Fresno State while Justin Bean had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Diogo Brito had 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists despite going 2-of-13 from the floor.
Bean, who also had 18 points and 14 rebounds against San Jose State, leads the Mountain West in rebounding at 11.8 a game. Fresno’s Nate Grimes, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds against Utah State, is third in the conference in rebounding at 9.9 a game.
Bean has emerged this year in the absence of 7-foot sophomore Neemias Queta, who suffered a knee injury in the Aggies’ first game of the season and didn’t return until Saturday.
“He (Bean) went from a guy who was on the scout team every day and has kept proving his merit,” Utah State coach Craig Smith said.
“We’re a tough, tough group,” said the 6-7 Bean who is averaging 15 points a game. “We’re more undersized than most teams, definitely more undersized than we thought we’d be (without Queta) coming into this year. But this team has heart.”
No. 9 Fresno State (2-6, 0-2) also lost to UNLV, 81-80, last week. Noah Blackwell had 18 points on four 3-pointers against UNLV and Mustafa Lawrence had 16 on four threes.
Fresno State has now lost four games in a row.
The Bulldogs lost to Utah State at the free throw line. Utah State was 31-of-34 from the line in the game in Logan, Utah while the Bulldogs were 13-of-15. Queta returned to the Aggies lineup and played 10 minutes, scoring six points, all from the free throw line.
“That’s just what happens when you’re on the road,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said of the huge advantage Utah State had at the free throw line. “That’s just part of college basketball.”
No. 3 New Mexico beat Montana and held off Boise State, 80-78, and Wyoming, 79-65, last week and is now 9-2, 2-0. The Lobos have now won four games in a row.
Carlton Bragg, who is second in the conference in rebounding (10.0 a game), had 17 points against Boise State, 20 against Montana and 15 points and 15 rebounds against Wyoming.
JaQuan Lyle, who is fourth in the Mountain West in scoring at 17.7 a game, had 31 points against Boise State, 16 against Montana and 13 against Wyoming.
No. 4 Nevada whipped Santa Clara (98-67) and Air Force (100-85) last week to improve to 7-3, 1-0. The Wolf Pack, which will play at BYU on Tuesday, has now won five games in a row.
Jazz Johnson, who is second in the Mountain West in scoring at 18.3 points a game, had 20 points against Santa Cara and 14 at Air Force and now leads the conference with 37 3-pointers. Jalen Harris had 16 against Santa Clara and 31 against Air Force.
The Wolf Pack was 13-of-23 on threes at Air Force and now leads the Mountain West in 3-point shooting percentage (.405) and in total threes (107, 10.7 a game).
The Wolf Pack is third in the Mountain West in scoring at 79.6 points a game. Harris is third in the conference in scoring at 17.8 points a game.
No. 5 Boise State (5-3, 1-1) rebounded last week to beat Colorado State 75-64 on Saturday as Justinian Jessup had 27 points on seven 3-pointers. Derrick Alston, who leads the Mountain West in scoring at 21.4 points a game, had 20 against New Mexico and 20 against Colorado State.
The Broncos lead the Mountain West in scoring at 81 points a game. Jessup is sixth in the conference at 17.5 points a game.
No. 6 UNLV beat Fresno (81-80) last Wednesday and lost to BYU (83-50) on Saturday. Ronnie Tillman, a transfer from Utah, had 28 on 13 free throws against Fresno State and 13 points against BYU.
The Rebels have played one of the toughest schedules in the Mountain West so far, losing to Kansas State, California, UCLA, Cincinnati and BYU.
No. 7 Colorado State (6-5, 0-2) beat Utah Valley (92-61) but dropped its first two conference games of the year (79-57 to San Diego State) and 75-64 to Boise State. Center Nico Carvacho had 16 points and 11 rebounds against San Diego State and 11 points and nine boards against Boise State.
No. 10 Air Force (4-6, 1-1) beat Wyoming (86-77) and lost to Nevada (100-95) last week. Lavelle Scottie had 23 points against Nevada and 19 against Wyoming. A.J. Walker had 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds against Wyoming and 21 points on four threes against Nevada. The Falcons have lost five of their last seven games.
No. 11 Wyoming (3-7, 0-2) has now lost four games in a row after losses last week to Air Force (86-77) and New Mexico (79-65). Hunter Maldonado had 18 points and nine assists against Air Force and 27 points on four threes against New Mexico. Maldonado is seventh in the conference at 17.1 points a game. His 32-point effort against Idaho State last month is the high for points in the Mountain West this season.