Aztecs defeat Air Force, 66-51, for second straight victory

Sophomore+forward+Matt+Mitchell+dribbles+the+ball+during+the+Aztecs%27+66-51+victory+over+Air+Force+on+Jan.+30+at+Viejas+Arena.+
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Aztecs defeat Air Force, 66-51, for second straight victory

Sophomore forward Matt Mitchell dribbles the ball during the Aztecs' 66-51 victory over Air Force on Jan. 30 at Viejas Arena.

Sophomore forward Matt Mitchell dribbles the ball during the Aztecs' 66-51 victory over Air Force on Jan. 30 at Viejas Arena.

Kareem Jones

Sophomore forward Matt Mitchell dribbles the ball during the Aztecs' 66-51 victory over Air Force on Jan. 30 at Viejas Arena.

Kareem Jones

Kareem Jones

Sophomore forward Matt Mitchell dribbles the ball during the Aztecs' 66-51 victory over Air Force on Jan. 30 at Viejas Arena.

by Abraham Jewett, Sports Editor

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Sophomore forward Matt Mitchell avoided a steal attempt from an Air Force defender, drove to the hoop and evaded the baseline with a wraparound pass to senior guard Devin Watson on the perimeter.

Mitchell threw a hand up in the air as soon as Watson rose up to launch a corner three, which sank to the bottom of the net.

The play may not have been a deciding moment in the game, it gave SDSU a 28-15 lead with just over five minutes to play in the first half, but what it represented could end up being far more important: The Aztecs appear to have their swagger back.

“Any of my teammates shoot a three I think it’s going in,” Mitchell said. “We all believe in each other and we all know we can do well.”

San Diego State men’s basketball did well on Wednesday evening, leading from start to finish en route to defeating Air Force by a score of 66-51 in front of 10,107 fans at Viejas Arena.

The victory was the second straight for the Aztecs (12-8, 4-3 MW), who previously lost to the Falcons (9-12, 4-5 MW) on the road back on Jan. 12.

Head coach Brian Dutcher said the team was healthier this time around.

“18 days ago, first game at altitude, (senior guard Jeremy Hemsley) coming off being sick, and these are all excuses,” Dutcher said. “Sometimes the best ability is availability, and so if you’re available your going to play.”

The loss at Air Force is part of a bigger issue for the Aztecs, who have struggled to a 1-4 record on the road and have yet to win a conference road game.

Dutcher said the test going forward is to build on their home success.

“We have to find a way to win our first conference road game,” he said. “It’s always easier at home, but the travel and the altitude and all those things are factors, so we have to find a way to be tough enough to play through all that.”

The Aztecs did not appear to have many struggles against Air Force, as they led by double digits for the entire second half and had four players finish in double figures, including 15 points from Watson, 11 from Mitchell and 14 points from Hemsley.

Hemsley said the team saw this as a chance to redeem itself from a 62-48 loss up in Colorado Springs.

“We wanted to play better because when we went up there, we didn’t play as good, we didn’t play like ourselves,” he said. “I think everybody just came out tonight wanting to prove something.”

Sophomore forward Jalen McDaniels joined his Aztec teammates in double figures, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double.

“(McDaniels) just has a nose for the ball,” Hemsley said. “He plays with a lot of energy, and if you do that, anybody will notice.”

Sophomore forward Lavelle Scottie paced the Falcons on offense with 22 points, but missed his only three-point attempt as the team finished only 4-17 from behind the arc and 38 percent from the floor overall.

“We’re a defensive team – defensive and offensive team, well rounded,” Mitchell said. “We’re supposed to lock teams up. We’re supposed to hold them to minimal points.”

The Aztecs went into halftime with a 36-19 lead after Watson drew and converted a three-shot foul with 1.6 seconds left.

Air Force missed seven of eight shots to both start the game and end the half, and were held scoreless for the final 2:44 before the break.

SDSU held a 20-9 advantage on the boards in the opening period and led by double-digits for the first time after a McDaniels’ three gave them a 15-5 lead with under 13 minutes to play before halftime.

The Aztecs will look to get it going on the road when they take on San Jose State on Feb. 2.

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