San Diego State’s Lamont Butler drives to the basket against Nevada earlier this season in San Diego. (Photo: San Diego State University)
The San Diego State Aztecs are taking no prisoners.
The Aztecs, ranked No. 3 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings, have won six games in a row by an average of 30 points.
The Aztecs, which have not lost since Jan. 16 (Utah State), have swept two-game series from No. 8 Wyoming, No. 9 San Jose State and No. 10 Air Force during their winning streak. Four of the six victories in the streak have been by 30 or more points.
“It’s what we needed to do,” San Diego State senior Jordan Schakel said. “It’s what Coach (Brian Dutcher) asked us to do.”
The Aztecs followed orders this past week, sweeping San Jose State 85-54 and 77-55. Schakel, who was named the Mountain West player of the week by the conference on Monday, had 47 points in the two games combined, including 10 3-pointers. San Diego State also held San Jose State to just 31-of-101 (31 percent) shooting in the two games.
“They (the Aztecs) just kind of have a swagger about them,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “Good teams have confidence. You can see it in the way they walk on the floor and carry themselves. I have a confident team.”
The Aztecs, now 15-4 overall and 9-3 in league play, are in the thick of the conference race with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. Also in the running for the Mountain West regular-season title are No. 1 Colorado State (14-4, 11-3), No. 2 Utah State (14-5, 11-2), No. 4 Nevada (14-7, 9-5) and No. 5 Boise State (16-4, 12-3).
“You have to have confidence to play this game and everyone on this team has confidence,” Schakel said. “It doesn’t even go through our minds. If you don’t have an aggressive mindset you shouldn’t even be on the court.”
The Aztecs’ winning streak came after a pair of losses at Utah State Jan. 14 and 16. The streak is the Aztecs’ longest since it won its first 26 games last season.
San Jose State (5-11, 3-11) is still playing without Mountain West leading scorer Richard Washington (20.7 points a game in 13 games), who is out with a head injury. The Spartans turned the ball over 29 times in its two games against San Diego State.
“Their depth took hold of the games as well as their athleticism,” San Jose State coach Jean Prioleau said.
Just seven league games were played last week in the Mountain West due to COVID-19 concerns. Utah State, Colorado State, Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico did not play at all last week as three two-game series (New Mexico at Colorado State, Nevada at San Jose State and Wyoming at Utah State) were either canceled or postponed.
No. 5 Boise State swept two games from No. 7 UNLV, 78-66 and 61-59, to remain in the race for first place. Boise’s Derrick Alston rebounded from an off night against the Rebels last Thursday (just nine points on 2-of-6 shooting) to score 27 points on Saturday with six threes.
“Give D.A. a lot of credit,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “He was a great leader (on Saturday).”
UNLV went on a 14-0 run to take a 49-43 lead with six minutes to play on Saturday. A jumper by Devonaire Doutrive, though, gave Boise State a 57-56 lead with 1:08 to play.
“My teammates put the trust in me,” said Doutrive, who had nine points in the game. “They just tell me to just shoot the ball all the time.”
UNLV’s David Jenkins had 45 points in the two games against Boise. His 3-pointer cut Boise’s lead to just 60-59 with 13 seconds to go on Saturday.
The Rebels, which will host the Mountain West tournament March 10-13, fell to 8-11 overall and 5-7 in the Mountain West. The Rebels were just 11-of-19 from the free throw line in the two games combined against Boise State. The Broncos were 29-of-39.
“Unfortunately for us, the lack of leadership, point guard play, experience, whatever you want to call it, comes back and haunts us,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
No. 6 Fresno State swept a two-game series with narrow victories over No. 10 Air Force, 69-63 and 67-64. The Bulldogs got 17 points from Junior Ballard in the six-point win on Thursday and 21 points and 11 rebounds from Orlando Robinson on Saturday.
Fresno State has now won 24-of-32 games in its rivalry against Air Force.
Air Force, which got 33 points from A.J. Walker on Thursday against Fresno State, has now dropped nine games in a row to fall to 4-16, 2-14. The Falcons have not won a game since Jan. 16 (Wyoming) and have lost 13-of-14 since beating Nevada on Dec. 20.
Walker had just eight points in the Falcons’ second game against Fresno State on 3-of-9 shooting (1-of-4 on threes).
No. 11 New Mexico (5-11, 1-11) has not played a game since Jan. 30 because its last two conference series against San Diego State and Colorado State have been canceled or postponed. The Lobos have not won a game since Jan. 21 against San Jose State.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings:
1. COLORADO STATE (14-4, 11-3): Last week: Idle. This week: Colorado State at Nevada (Feb. 20, 22).
2. UTAH STATE (14-5, 11-2): Last week: Idle. This week: Utah State at Boise State (Feb. 17, 19).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (15-4, 9-3): Last week: San Diego State 85, San Jose State 54 (Feb. 8), San Diego State 77, San Jose State 55 (Feb. 10). This week: San Diego State at Fresno State (Feb. 18, 20).
4. NEVADA (14-7, 9-5): Last week: Idle. This week: Colorado State at Nevada (Feb. 20, 22).
5. BOISE STATE (16-4, 12-3): Last week: Boise State 78, UNLV 66 (Feb. 11), Boise State 61, UNLV 59 (Feb. 13). This week: Utah State at Boise State (Feb. 17, 19).
6. FRESNO STATE (9-7, 7-7): Last week: Fresno State 69, Air Force 63 (Feb. 11), Fresno State 67, Air Force 64 (Feb. 13). This week: San Diego State at Fresno State (Feb. 18, 20).
7. UNLV (8-11, 5-7): Last week: UNLV 69, Air Force 64 (Feb. 8), Boise State 78, UNLV 66 (Feb. 11), Boise State 61, UNLV 59 (Feb. 13). This week: UNLV at San Jose State (Feb. 19, 21).
8. WYOMING (10-9, 4-8): Last week: Idle. This week: Wyoming vs. New Mexico at Colorado Springs (Feb. 17, 19).
9. SAN JOSE STATE (5-13, 3-11): Last week: San Diego State 85, San Jose State 54 (Feb. 8), San Diego State 77, San Jose State 55 (Feb. 10). This week: UNLV at San Jose State (Feb. 19, 21).
10. AIR FORCE (4-16, 2-14): Last week: UNLV 69, Air Force 64 (Feb. 8), Fresno State 69, Air Force 63 (Feb. 11), Fresno State 67, Air Force 64 (Feb. 13). This week: Idle.
11. NEW MEXICO (5-11, 1-11): Last week: Idle. This week: Wyoming vs. New Mexico at Colorado Springs (Feb. 17, 19).