SDSU men’s basketball rolls over Utah State University, 70-55

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by Anthony Reclusado, Assistant Sports Editor

If once is chance, second a coincidence and third a pattern, then the seventh is set in stone.

For the seventh-straight game the Aztecs (14-6, 7-0 Mountain West) saw a double-digit lead vanish in the second half and allowed their opponents to dwindle the lead to two scores.

But just as they have done all year, they found a way to win, and in this iteration, they just wore down the visiting Utah State Aggies (11-8, 3-5 MW) with key scoring in the second half to capture their seventh-straight win, 70-55.

SDSU opened the game by pushing the tempo and ran out to a 23-10 lead in only nine minutes of play behind stellar post play of senior centers Skylar Spencer and Angelo Chol.

“We had some stretches today where we were very impressive,” head coach Steve Fisher said. “We now need to keep them longer and our not-so-good stretches short.”

One of those “not-so-good stretches” came as a result of the game plan and scheming of Utah State’s head coach Tim Duryea. The first-year Aggie coach came into this match with mental notes of the first meeting of these teams on Jan. 2, when SDSU grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and had 15 second-chance points.

Part one of his plan was to bring redshirt-junior forward Lew Evans, who had 22 points the last meeting, off the bench to provide a spark for the second unit. Evans would be sidelined for majority of this game due to foul trouble, however, forcing the highly skilled junior forward Jalen Moore to play extra minutes with the second unit.

Junior guard Shane Rector, who came into Viejas averaging 8.2 points, had a team-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

The second part of Duryea’s plan was to give sophomore forward Elston Jones more playing time, who only played six minutes on Jan. 2, to combat the Aztecs’ length in the frontcourt.

In only seven minutes of action, Jones recorded seven points, seven rebounds (five offensive) and a block. Two fouls would sideline the Aggie for the remainder of the first half, but the damage was done and SDSU was unable to regain its rhythm.

Heading into half the Aztecs saw their 13-point lead dwindle to five and went into the locker room at 37-32.

The Aggies carried their first-half momentum into the opening minutes of the second and began the half on a 9-2 run to take a 41-39 lead.

“We started the second half the way we finished the first half and they scored four straight possessions to take the lead,” Fisher said. “After that we had a long stretch where we were very good.”

Unfortunately for Duryea that long stretch lasted for the remainder of the half and his team was unable to match the firepower of the Aztecs down the stretch.

Sophomore guard Trey Kell, who only took two shots for three points in the first half, took over the game when his team went down and scored 10 of SDSU’s first 14 points of the half to push the lead back to double digits.

He ended the night with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

Freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley and Chol would take it from there and score SDSU’s next 11 points to take a commanding 17-point lead.

Even though he only logged 17 minutes, Chol made his presence felt on both ends of the court and ended the game with 12 points and nine rebounds.

“(Chol) seemed to be smart-aggressive with his play,” Fisher said. “He moved where he thought the ball would come off the glass when a shot went up and caught it sure-handed.”

But the Aztecs will leave this match hanging their hat on their stellar defense as they were able to limit the Aggies’ two high-octane offensive players: senior guard Chris Smith and Moore. Smith, who entered this game averaging 14.7 points per game on 49.5-percent shooting, was limited to two points on 1-for-10 shooting.

“We didn’t give him a layup, free throw or wide, wide, wide open shots to get him going,” Fisher said.

Smith’s fellow offensive threat faired slightly better, as Moore ended his night with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

The win marks the 46th victory in conference play for Spencer and senior forward Winston Shepard in their SDSU career — the most in school history.

“I know that is something they are proud of and I am proud of it for them,” Fisher said.

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