Once again needing a good, solid win after a tough loss, San Diego State sent New Mexico packing with a 97-77 win Tuesday at Viejas Arena.
The Aztecs (12-7, 2-2 Mountain West), for the first time since February 2015, started four underclassmen and the underclassmen showed promise. Redshirt sophomore Jalen McDaniels had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds while freshmen Nathan Mensah had 16 and Aguek Arop had 10, including a 65-foot buzzer beater at halftime.
“We continue to teach because they’re young and they have a lot to learn,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “And Nathan’s working like crazy. He’s, what, 7-for-7 and AG is 4-for-4. So between the two freshmen, they didn’t miss a shot today. And AG that shot he hit from three-quarter court was incredible.”
Arop stole the ball with six seconds left on the clock, took two steps and launched a three-quarter-court length jumper that went through the net at the buzzer, giving the Aztecs a 44-39 halftime lead.
“That was fun to see,” Dutcher said. “That’s a memory he’ll take with him forever, and I’ll remember that. That was a heck of a three-quarter-length shot.”
San Diego State was helped by the continued use of zone defense by New Mexico (8-9, 2-3) for the entire game. The Lobos’ 1-3-1 defense gave McDaniels plenty of opportunities. He made 10 of his 19 shots.
“Our zone offense is so much better than our man offense,” Dutcher said. “I told the team that we might not see zone the rest of the year the way you guys played against zone.”
The trick now is to get the team to play that way in one-on-one offense, he said.