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Aztecs drop another close contest to Bulldogs, 77-73

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Aztecs drop another close contest to Bulldogs, 77-73

Senior forward Malik Pope rises for a layup during SDSU's 77-73 loss to Fresno State.

Senior forward Malik Pope rises for a layup during SDSU's 77-73 loss to Fresno State.

Photo by Samantha Bonpensiero

Senior forward Malik Pope rises for a layup during SDSU's 77-73 loss to Fresno State.

Photo by Samantha Bonpensiero

Photo by Samantha Bonpensiero

Senior forward Malik Pope rises for a layup during SDSU's 77-73 loss to Fresno State.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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The last time San Diego State men’s basketball played Fresno State University at Viejas Arena, the visitors from up North walked off the Aztecs court with a victory.

On Wednesday night SDSU’s chance for revenge slipped right through its fingers, as the team gave up a 10-point second half lead to fall to the visiting Bulldogs by a score of 77-73.

It was only the second home loss of the season for the Aztecs, who fell to 7-2 on Steve Fisher Court, 11-6 overall and 3-3 in Mountain West Conference play.

The loss was also the second straight for an SDSU team which came in still reeling from an 83-80 road loss at Boise State University only four days ago.

“We made enough plays to win the game just not enough down the stretch to win the game,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “After the game, I told the team in the locker room… one thing is for certain, no one is going to feel sorry for you – so don’t feel sorry for yourself.” 

Fresno (14-6, 4-3 MW) broke a 68-68 tie with just over two minutes to play after four consecutive free throws from senior guard Ray Bowles Jr. (13 points) gave the Bulldogs a 72-68 lead with 1:35 left.

The Aztecs got to within one point twice in the final minute and thirty seconds – after a long three-pointer from senior guard Trey Kell (14 points, five assists) and two free throws from redshirt freshman forward Jalen McDaniels – but a blocked shot and a turnover on their final two possessions doomed any chance for a last-second comeback.

“Credit to them they didn’t stop fighting they competed to the end,” Kell said. “I feel like we let that one slip away.”

SDSU had a chance to tie the game at 75 before junior guard Devin Watson (11 points, three assists) had his layup attempt blocked by Fresno sophomore Nate Grimes with 21 seconds left to play.

Grimes finished the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the field after averaging only 3.6 points per game coming in.

The Aztecs were without forward Malik Pope to end the game, after the senior took an inadvertent knee to the groin from Fresno junior guard Deshon Taylor with 5:36 to play in the game and the score tied at 65.

Taylor – who led the Bulldogs with 22 points along with five rebounds and three assists – gave Pope a hug once he was able to get to his feet, but the SDSU captain had to be helped off the court and was unable to play for the remainder of the game.

“Would have been nice to have (Pope) in there. He’s obviously one of our best players,” Dutcher said.

Pope was also absent for the majority of the first half, playing only the first six minutes after picking up two quick fouls, and finished the game with 10 points and two rebounds.

SDSU was led on offense by redshirt freshman forward Jalen McDaniels, who finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds in 36 minutes for his fourth double-double of the season.

McDaniels, who was starting his fifth straight game, played almost the entirety of the first half, sitting for only one minute in the opening period while logging 19 minutes of court-time, before finishing the game with 36.

“I just feel like when I’m on the floor I just have to play hard no matter who is on the court or off the court,” McDaniels said.

The Aztecs opened up a 52-42 lead under five minutes into the second half after a 7-0 run which included a jumper from freshman forward Matt Mitchell (13 points), a layup by Watson and a three-pointer by Pope.

Pope’s bucket came after a behind-the-back pass from Watson and was his first points since the early stages of the game. 

Fresno proceeded to chip away at the Aztecs lead while converting eight of ten field goals, and pulled within 61-60 with 7:03 to play after tip in by Grimes and a layup by Taylor.

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the second half with 6:49 remaining in the game after a three point play by Bowles made the score 63-62.

Pope responded with a three-point play of his own on a layup and a free throw to give the Aztecs a 65-63 lead with 6:31 to play.

The Aztecs ended the first half on a 7-0 run after a layup from sophomore forward Nolan Narain (six points), two Watson free-throws and a layup by Kell to go into the break with a 40-36 lead after a closely contested first half.

The biggest lead of the half came after a three-point play by junior forward Sam Bittner (six points) gave Fresno a 16-10 lead just under five minutes into the game.

SDSU went on a 7-0 run to take a 23-21 lead with 8:04 left in the first half, after a layup and three-point shot from Kell, along with a free throw from McDaniels and junior guard Jeremy Hemsley (three points).

McDaniels nearly recorded a first half double-double for the Aztecs, finishing the opening period with nine points and eight rebounds.

Fresno stopped the Aztecs run with a three-point shot by Taylor which gave the Bulldogs a 24-23 lead with 7:58 left in the half.

Taylor paced the Bulldogs in the first half with 12 points on three of seven shooting.

SDSU’s next game will be a conference road matchup against the University of New Mexico on Jan. 20.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Aztecs drop another close contest to Bulldogs, 77-73”

  1. Jimmy Bell on January 20th, 2018 8:21 am

    Trey Kell needs to sit. He’s taking and missing way too many shots. The last two losses are on him.

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