Unranked, but not undone.
San Diego State outlasted a determined Long Beach State team Tuesday at Viejas Arena, pulling away late for an 88-76 victory.
“A good win,” said coach Brian Dutcher. “I was nervous about Long Beach.”
In came Long Beach State, and it was Aztecs guard Reese Waters, who grew up in Long Beach, stealing the spotlight at the beginning of the game, driving into the paint for his first points and then hitting a three-pointer from the corner.
Waters joked later that he was going for bragging rights, and he ended up with 15 points. He was one of five Aztecs who scored in double digits, led again by Jaedon LeDee with 27. The forward matched his career high, set last week.
SDSU built an early lead and then began hitting three-pointers, including one from Elijah
Saunders and another from Micah Parrish.
At the eight-minute mark of the first half, the Aztecs were shooting 83.3% from long distance and later had built a lead as high as 13 points.
But Long Beach State slowly cut into it with three pointers of their own, until they were behind by just five with a little over six minutes left in the half.
The Aztecs bounced back, though, and had the sold-out Viejas crowd roaring after Parrish delivered a huge dunk. A three-pointer from Trammell three minutes later continued their momentum.
A Long Beach State jumper at the buzzer pulled the 49ers closer, but still left the Aztecs up 47-39 at halftime.
The second half started with some sloppy play from both teams, including fouls, a missed dunk by the Aztecs and turnovers.
Guard Lamont Butler credited Long Beach State’s diverse defensive looks with causing turnovers. “We were just trying to figure out what they were doing,” said Butler.
Added Dutcher: “You practice, but you can’t practice for everything.”
Still, the Aztecs kept the lead until a surge by Long Beach State again cut the lead to five.
The Aztecs answered again, this time with a Miles Heide basket, a three-pointer from Waters and another from Butler; they had a 66-57 lead with a little over 10 minutes to go.
But every time the Aztecs threatened to run away, Long Beach State came back with a timely basket. Another three-pointer from Waters was answered with a layup from Long Beach, off a turnover by LeDee.
The Aztecs finally opened some distance with a little over six minutes left. A steal by Parrish led to Long Beach State guard Jadon Jones fouling out. That seemed to energize the Aztecs as Parrish soon followed with a dunk, then LeDee took an inside pass for a layup, and
later, his two free throws made it 83-67 Aztecs with 4:27 to play.
Dutcher said there were several positives in the game, including the Aztecs’ rebounding and assists.
“88? That’s a pretty good offensive performance,” he said.
To begin the evening, the Aztecs held a moment of silence to honor San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler, who died earlier in the day.
SDSU returns to action at 6:30 p.m. Friday, when the Aztecs meet Saint Mary’s College at the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas. They also play Sunday, against Washington or Xavier.