After a heart-breaking loss to Cal two weeks ago, the San Diego State men’s basketball team came back with a vengeance beating No. 12 Gonzaga, 72-70, Thursday at Viejas Arena.
Despite some poor shooting from the floor, the Aztecs (8-3) offense stepped up when it counted and led the Bulldogs by as much as 12 points in the first half. The Aztecs also managed to quell all of Gonzaga’s rallies in the win.
Despite never leading, Gonzaga (10-3) managed to cut the deficit to two points three times in the final two minutes. Trey Kell, who didn’t start because of a thigh injury, sank two of his eight free throws with 1:16 left and added a layup with 46.4 seconds to go to put a stop to the Bulldogs’ final rally. Time expired on Gonzaga’s comeback attempt as Jesse Wade sank a 3-pointer with 0.1 second remaining.
”It’s a great win for us,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said. ”When you beat a ranked team it feels good; you beat a good Gonzaga team. It does feel good. As a coach, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this one over the holiday break. It’s a great way to build momentum moving into the conference. It gives the kids some confidence to know that all the work they put in was rewarded.”
The Bulldogs’ defense sputtered against the Aztecs from the beginning. San Diego State forced nine turnovers in the first half and 16 for the game.
”It was a defensive battle out there for a long time,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ”In the second half, we got plenty of stops there. We just needed to find some baskets and we didn’t.”
The Aztecs’ last game was on Dec. 9 when they lost to Cal at home. That gave the team 12 days to prepare for Gonzaga. Dutcher, however, was worried the team might be rusty after such a long break without a game. Turned out he had nothing to worry about.
”We had 12 days to get better and we did that,” said Kell, who scored 14 points, 10 of those during the last 2:56 minutes of the game.
Red-shirt freshman Jalen McDaniels had a banner game with 15 points, 10 of those in the second half, and 10 rebounds for his second career double-double. Freshman Matt Mitchell also contributed 15 points for San Diego State.
Up next, SDSU opens Mountain West Conference play at Wyoming on Wednesday.
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