Aztecs move to 5-0 after second half defensive effort against LIU

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Aztecs move to 5-0 after second half defensive effort against LIU

Junior forward Matt Mitchell shoots over the LIU defense during the Aztecs' 81-64 victory over the Sharks on Nov. 22 at Viejas Arena.

Junior forward Matt Mitchell shoots over the LIU defense during the Aztecs' 81-64 victory over the Sharks on Nov. 22 at Viejas Arena.

Sam Mayo

Junior forward Matt Mitchell shoots over the LIU defense during the Aztecs' 81-64 victory over the Sharks on Nov. 22 at Viejas Arena.

Sam Mayo

Sam Mayo

Junior forward Matt Mitchell shoots over the LIU defense during the Aztecs' 81-64 victory over the Sharks on Nov. 22 at Viejas Arena.

by Aaron Tolentino, Sports Editor

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After a 66-49 win over crosstown opponent San Diego on Wednesday, San Diego State men’s basketball got right back on the floor Friday and defeated Long Island University 81-64 at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs now own a 5-0 record for the first time since the 2014-15 season when they made the NCAA Tournament and lost to eventual champion Duke in the third round.

Maybe a little too early to be talking about the tournament in November.

Nonetheless, SDSU is off to its best start since that season.

LIU wasn’t necessarily the box office attraction of an opponent, but it also wasn’t a cakewalk of a victory some might have expected.

The deficit of 17 points at the final buzzer may have made it seem like an easy game for the Aztecs

Not the case.

This was no cakewalk against the Sharks, a program that last made the NCAA tournament the same year the Aztecs made it (2017-18).

Both teams shot 47% from the field at intermission when the Aztecs held on to a 38-32 lead.

Defensively, the Aztecs picked it up in the second half with a defensive improvement: only allowing 43% shooting from the field.

Senior forward Yanni Wetzell said head coach Brian Dutcher told the team at the half to focus on defense.

“He was more frustrated about the defensive end,” Wetzell said. “We came out and started focusing more on the defensive end, and we know shots were gonna fall, and that’s what happened, and that’s why it was such a big deficit in the end.”

After a career highs of 20 points and 12 boards at USD two days earlier, Wetzell followed that up with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He came out a bit more aggressive, scoring SDSU’s first four points.

Wetzell said he felt more confident coming into Friday.

“Obviously, when you come off a career night, you feel a bit confident,” he said. “You’re taking those shots, you’re just feeling yourself a little, you’re shooting with a lot more confidence.”

 

Matt Mitchell adjusting to new bench role

Five games in coming off the bench this season, junior forward Matt Mitchell is getting acclimated to a sixth man role after starting 65 times through his freshman and sophomore years.

On Friday night, Mitchell looked like he’s adjusting to that role well by scoring a team-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, along with two 3-pointers.

Mitchell said coming off the bench “feels a bit different,” but he stays ready for whenever Dutcher wants him to come on the floor and contribute.

The competitor in Mitchell wants to be in that starting five but plans to ball regardless if it’s off the bench or not.

“I feel like everybody would like to start but at the end of the day it’s coach’s choice,” he said. “If I’m not in that five, I’m not in that five, and I gotta come off the bench hard and play my best game.”

Dutcher decided to begin the year starting junior guard Jordan Schakel who has impressed so far by shooting over 57% (15-26) from distance.

“I’m sure (Mitchell) is not happy coming off the bench, and I don’t want him to be,” Dutcher said. “I want him to feel like he should be starting. If he keeps playing like that he’ll have a chance to play himself back into the starting lineup.”

 

Malachi Flynn records double-double 

Five games in, junior guard Malachi Flynn has shown he can do more than score.

Coming in as a transfer from Washington State who averaged 15 points per game, Flynn was expected to do the same thing and then some in an Aztec uniform.

Flynn showed once again he can facilitate on offense.

Though he shot 33% for 13 points, along with 2-for-4 free throws, Flynn dished out 10 assists – the tenth one coming in the final minute that set up Schakel to nail a 3-pointer.

Dutcher said despite Flynn’s quiet offensive night shooting, he contributed with his passing.

“The good news is when he’s not shooting it well, (he gets) 10 assists,” Dutcher said. “He’s been a tremendous playmaker for us when the shots aren’t going in.”

Aztecs get two days off before taking the court against Tennessee State on Monday Nov. 25 at Viejas Arena.

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