San Diego State's Matt Mitchell drives past Fresno State's Jordan Campbell, left, and Isaiah Hill during Thursday’s game in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
Brian Dutcher is a big fan of his San Diego State Aztecs.
“I told them before the game, ‘We’re wired the right way,’” the Aztecs men’s basketball coach said after a two-game series sweep over the Fresno State Bulldogs last week. ‘“We’re wired hard.’”
The Aztecs whipped the Bulldogs 67-53 last Thursday and 75-57 on Saturday on the road to move into the top spot in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings. San Diego State (17-4, 11-3) has now won eight games in a row by at least 14 points after losing a pair of games at Utah State Jan. 14, 16.
“I think everyone on this team, especially the veteran guys, knew that every game from Utah State on was a must win and still is,” Aztecs’ forward Jordan Schakel said. “We have two games left in the regular season and then if you lose you go home. They are all must wins.”
Schakel scored 27 points in the two victories over Fresno State. Matt Mitchell had 32 in the two games. The Aztecs were extremely efficient in Saturday’s 18-point win, shooting 25-of-41 (.610) from the floor and 8-of-12 (.667) on threes, both season-high performances in the Mountain West this season.
No. 7 Fresno State fell to 9-9, 7-9.
“Our fight is still there,” said Fresno State coach Justin Hutson, a former San Diego State assistant for 10 years. “It’s just not always consistent.”
The Bulldogs shot just 18-of-54 (33 percent) from the floor on Thursday. Fresno State missed 15 of its 20 3-point shots.
“I think we got a little discouraged,” Hutson said.
San Diego State shot 14-of-18 in the second half on Saturday. They were just 17-of-24 from the free throw line for the game.
“It’s not easy winning on the road but we’re wired because of the way we practice and the way we prepare,” said Dutcher, complimenting himself and his staff. “We’re ready for these moments.”
The Aztecs will host No. 2 Boise State for two critical games this week with the Mountain West regular season title up for grabs.
Boise State (18-4, 14-3) won two games from No. 5 Utah State (14-7, 11-4) last week, 79-70 and 81-77 at home.
Utah State got 62 points in the two games from center Neemias Queta but no other Aggies’ player scored more than 11 points in either game.
“It’s a tough one to handle,” Utah State coach Craig Smith said after the second loss to Boise State on Friday. “As a whole we made some senseless decisions at times. We took some really bad shots that were unnecessary. We just got to be better.”
Queta, who had 21 rebounds in the two games, was 14-of-19 from the floor on Friday. His 14 successful shot are the most for a Mountain West player this season in one game.
Boise State got 26 and 23 points from Derrick Alston, this week’s Mountain West Player of the Week. Utah State led 37-30 at halftime on Friday but Boise State came out and shot 17-of-23 in the second half to steal the victory.
“Those were two high-level basketball games,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice after the two-game sweep. “They played so hard, we played so hard. They punched and we counter-punched. That was an ExtraMile Arena (Boise’s home arena) classic right there.”
“We will play better,” said Smith, whose Aggies host Nevada this Friday and Sunday.
No. 3 Colorado State, No. 4 Nevada and No. 10 Air Force did not play a game last week. No. 6 UNLV (10-11, 7-7) swept a pair of games over No. 9 San Jose State, 76-60 and 67-64. UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton had 35 points in the two games combined.
UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger, though, wasn’t impressed with his team after the three-point win on Sunday. The Rebels missed 20-of-27 threes and 8-of-14 free throws in the game. San Jose State (5-15, 3-13) went on a 13-0 run to tie the game at 54-54 with 7:45 to play.
“San Jose was the more aggressive and physical team,” Otzelberger said. “You don’t get style points this time of year in league play but we are lucky and fortunate to come out with a win.”
UNLV is now 43-6 against San Jose State in the history of the rivalry.
No. 8 Wyoming (12-9, 6-8) took a pair of games from No. 11 New Mexico, 83-74 in overtime and 79-67. Makuach Maluach had 47 points in the two games for New Mexico, which is now 5-13 overall and just 1-13 in Mountain West play. Hunter Maldonado had 14 points and 16 rebounds for Wyoming in the 12-point win on Friday.
The Mountain West heads into the final week of the regular season this week, though some league games wiped out by COVID-19 this year could be played next week (March 2-9) before the conference tournament March 10-13 in Las Vegas.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings:
1. SAN DIEGO STATE (17-4, 11-3): Last week: San Diego State 67, Fresno State 53 (Feb. 18), San Diego State 75, Fresno State 57 (Feb. 20). This week: Boise State at San Diego State (Feb. 25, 27).
2. BOISE STATE (18-4, 14-3): Last week: Boise State 79, Utah State 70 (Feb. 17), Boise State 81, Utah State 77 (Feb. 19). This week: Boise State at San Diego State (Feb. 25, 27).
3. COLORADO STATE (14-4, 11-3): Last week: Idle. This week: Air Force at Colorado State (Feb. 27, March 1).
4. NEVADA (14-7, 9-5): Last week: Idle. This week: Nevada at Utah State (Feb. 26, 28).
5. UTAH STATE (14-7, 11-4): Last week: Boise State 79, Utah State 70 (Feb. 17), Boise State 81, Utah State 77 (Feb. 19). This week: Nevada at Utah State (Feb. 26, 28).
6. UNLV (10-11, 7-7): Last week: UNLV 76, San Jose State 60 (Feb. 19), UNLV 67, San Jose State 64 (Feb. 21). This week: Fresno State at UNLV (Feb. 24, 26).
7. FRESNO STATE (9-9, 7-9): Last week: San Diego State 67, Fresno State 53 (Feb. 18), San Diego State 75, Fresno State 57 (Feb. 20). This week: Fresno State at UNLV (Feb. 24, 26).
8. WYOMING (12-9, 6-8): Last week: Wyoming 83, New Mexico 74, OT (Feb. 17), Wyoming 79, New Mexico 67 (Feb. 19). This week: San Jose State at Wyoming (Feb. 25, 27).
9. SAN JOSE STATE (5-15, 3-13): Last week: UNLV 76, San Jose State 60 (Feb. 19), UNLV 67, San Jose State 64 (Feb. 21). This week: San Jose State at Wyoming (Feb. 25, 27).
10. AIR FORCE (4-16, 2-14): Last week: Idle. This week: New Mexico at Air Force (Feb. 22, 24).
11. NEW MEXICO (5-13, 1-13): Last week: Wyoming 83, New Mexico 74, OT (Feb. 17), Wyoming 79, New Mexico 67 (Feb. 19). This week: New Mexico at Air Force (Feb. 22, 24).