Aztecs head to Maui Invitational for matchup against No. 1 Duke


Raymond Gorospe

Redshirt sophomore forward Jalen McDaniels goes up for the layup against Texas Southern on Nov. 14 at Viejas Arena.

by Aaron Tolentino, Assistant Sports Editor

San Diego State men’s basketball travels to Hawaii on Monday to face No. 1 Duke University in the Maui Invitational.

The invitational is a three-day, eight-team tournament from Nov. 19-21 that will feature six other programs: Arizona, Gonzaga, Xavier, Auburn, Illinois and Iowa State.

Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher said matchups against a storied program like Duke are why players choose to go to SDSU.

“That’s why these kids come to San Diego State; we promise them we’re going to play marquee games and give them the opportunity to play on the biggest stage,” he said. “We’ll be on the biggest stage that day, so we’re excited for our opportunity to head to Maui and play Duke on Monday.”

Freshman forward Zion Williamson has quickly become a household name in his first three college games for the Blue Devils, dominating with high-flying dunks and easy baskets while averaging a team-leading 10 rebounds and 25 points per game on 82 percent shooting.

Dutcher said he already has planned who will be guarding the 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman phenom.

“I have (sophomore forward) Matt Mitchell at about 230/245, we’ll be giving up some weight, but we’ll be close,” Dutcher said.

Duke (3-0) has won its first three games by an average of 31 points, notably defeating then-No. 2 Kentucky by 34 points to begin the season.

Mitchell said Duke’s early season dominance cannot be ignored.

“I would say it scares us. Everyone’s human, but you have to take notice of what they’re capable of,” Mitchell said. “I think Duke will be a good test being the number one team in the country.”

The matchup will be nationally televised on ESPN and should garner significant media attention, but sophomore guard Jordan Schakel said Duke is simply another opponent on the schedule.

“It’s a national stage, but we like to take it one game at a time,” Schakel said. “It’s just a basketball game and we have to do what we do. We have to play hard and trust what we’ll be doing in practice in the next coming days.”

Dutcher said he expects Duke will bring full-court pressure throughout the game, which will be a transition from SDSU’s last game against Texas Southern, where the Aztecs were able to dribble down the court and conventionally run their offense.

“We know (pressure) is what we’re going to see against Duke,” Dutcher said. “We’ll concentrate on finding a way so we’re not stagnant or afraid of the pressure, where we can use that pressure to our advantage.”

Look for the Blue Devils to try and trap SDSU’s backcourt to force turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves.

If the Aztecs are able to beat Duke’s pressure and get past half court, there can be opportunities for easy baskets inside.

Defensively, the Aztecs will try to limit Duke’s transition baskets by sending three defenders back on missed shots, instead of the usual two.

The Blue Devils finished with 14 dunks in their last game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, many of which were in transition.

Dutcher said he will use a similar strategy from last year’s victory over Gonzaga, a team that was also dangerous in transition.

“Generally we send three to the glass and two guys back,” Dutcher said. “Against Gonzaga last year, we knew they really ran, so we sent three back on the shot instead of two to try to get a more defensive presence so they can’t score quickly on the break.”