Aztec Hoops: San Diego State Easily Downs Air Force, 81-50

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Aztecs guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) lays the ball up in between Air Force Falcons forward Lavelle Scottie (12) and forward Ryan Swan (34) in the Feb. 3, 2018, game at Viejas Arena. Photo courtesy of Derrick Tuskan/SDSU

The San Diego State men’s basketball team did something it typically doesn’t do in the 81-50 win against Air Force on Saturday at Viejas Arena, it played zone.

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“After watching Air Force getting zoned some, they struggle from three a little bit,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said. “We thought instead of chasing them around and letting them shoot threes, let’s let them shoot threes out of the zone where you don’t have to chase so much.”

The Aztecs (13-8; 5-5 Mountain West) did some zone play against Fresno State, which was successful in the first half but broke down in the second half. That was partly the reason why Dutcher wanted to concentrate on zone this week.

“I thought we knew what to do, but we didn’t play it enough where we would make a mistake and teach to it,” he said. “There is only so much time and practice. If we are going 90 minutes or two hours, to be good at something you have to devote time to it. So this week we devoted more time to our zone.”

SDSU also started more freshmen in a conference game than it has in eight years. Malik Pope was the only starting senior as Trey Kell is out because of a sprained ankle. Sophomore Nolan Narain was also out with shoulder problems, leaving the Aztecs with eight men. Freshmen Jalen McDaniels and Matt Mitchell got the start this week.

McDaniels scored 16 points and had 13 rebounds with 7-of-10 shooting to help the Aztecs beat Air Force (8-13; 2-7 MW) for the 13th straight times. Jeremy Hemsley, who filled in for Kell, scored 16 points. Max Montana and Devin Watson also scored in the double digits with 13 points each.

Successive treys from Mitchell, Hemsley and Watson early in the first half gave SDSU a 13-7 cushion and opened the game up. The Aztecs were never threatened in the game.

“We just stayed locked in and kept the pace of the game,” McDaniels said. “We tried to not rush anything or force anything like trying to get up by a lot. We stayed with the course of the game and keep doing what we do. The results showed that.”

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Up next, SDSU is on the road against Fresno State on Tuesday.

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