In many ways, the Bulldogs (4-1) were the Aztecs (5-1) first true test. After losing to Arizona State, SDSU has had a string of easy foes. Georgia brought with it size and experience. The Aztecs is a young team with a new coach.
In the end, youth won the day. For most of the game, it was neck and neck with neither team leading for more than eight points in the second half. It all came done to the last minutes when SDSU went on a 12-4 run to beat the Bulldogs and go to the title game.
“We knew it was going to be a really competitive game,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said. “Georgia is well coached, they’re tough, they have the preseason co-SEC player on the roster. It was a good game and it went down to the final one or two possessions so we feel fortunate to win.”
This was SDSU’s first win against an SEC team since since Dec. 21, 1985, when it beat Florida in Las Vegas.
Kevin Watson scored 16 points and Trey Kell added 13 more. Freshman Matt Mitchell also added 13 and Jalen McDaniels scored 11 points.
Despite their size advantage, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on an opportunity when the Aztecs’ best player Malik Pope fouled out in the first half. With Pope on the bench, Georgia was able to build up a 12-point lead until San Diego State went on a 20-5 run for a three-point lead. The Bulldogs eventually closed out the half with a 34-33 lead but failed to build a substantial lead.
The Aztecs picked up their first win of the season where they were trailing at the half.
“Last year we dropped a lot of those game but this year this team we just have a different vibe around us where we know we’re going to win those close games,” Kell said. “We come together instead of everyone being nervous for the situation or try to do it themselves.
At the start of the second half, Pope scored four of the Aztecs first six points and ended the game with nine points, his second straight game where he scored in the single digit.
San Diego State now faces Washington State in the finals at 9 p.m. Sunday.
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