NCAA SDSU Mountain West
Matt Mitchell leaves the game late against Syracuse, as his college career comes to an end. Photo credit: Screenshot, CBS

San Diego State suffered through an abysmal first half Friday, going nearly 10 minutes without scoring on the way to a painful 78-62 loss to Syracuse, and an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 6 seeds could not get started, shooting just 23% for the half, while making only three of their 20 three-point attempts. 

They shot 36% for the game, far behind the Orange’s 55%, powered by Buddy Boeheim who led his team with 30 points.

“We feel like we’re playing our best basketball for sure,” Boeheim told CBS after the game.

Though SDSU established an early lead, the half closed on a 18-0 run by the No. 11 seed. Syracuse led 32-18 after Nathan Mensah missed a free throw with seconds left in the half to continue the 9:38 Aztecs scoring drought.

The 18 points is the lowest that San Diego State has scored in a half since Jan. 14, when Utah State held them to 20 and went on to win 57-45.

“We couldn’t find a rhythm at all and as you could see it was a struggle for us all night,” coach Brian Dutcher told XTRA 1360.

The first-half dry spell wore on until a minute after the break when Jordan Schakel hit a three to make the score 34-21.

The Aztecs narrowed the gap to 40-29, but after that the Orange was off to the races, jumping ahead 46-29 – the biggest deficit San Diego State had faced all year.

It would grow far larger before game’s end, reaching 26, though SDSU found its shot down the stretch to lose by only 16.

Schakel and Matt Mitchell had 17 points each. With the exception of Schakel, everyone had trouble from beyond the arc, with Mitchell making just one of nine threes and Terrell Gomez one of seven.

“This is not how we wanted to end it,” Schakel told the Associated Press. “In a couple days, I’ll be able to look back and be grateful. But right now, this one doesn’t feel good.”

San Diego State ends the season with a 23-5 record, and as the Mountain West regular-season and tournament champions. The conference will go no deeper into the tournament, as Utah State also fell Friday, losing to Texas Tech, 65-53.

It was the Aztecs’ first time back to the NCCA Tournament since 2018, when they also exited in the first round. With the loss, their tournament record falls to 6-13 all time, while Dutcher’s as head coach slips to 0-2.

Though the Aztecs were only sight favorites, it was a day of upsets at the tournament. Oral Roberts eliminated No. 2 seed Ohio State, as Oregon State did to No. 5 seed Tennessee. No. 4 seed Purdue also fell to North Texas in overtime.

Syracuse (17-9) moves on to face the winner of Friday’s other late game, No. 3 seed West Virginia, which defeated Morehead State, 84-67.