No. 20 Aztecs blowout San Diego Christian, improve to 11–0 behind Wetzell’s 17 points

Senior+forward+Yanni+Wetzell+scored+17+points+and+grabbed+six+rebounds+in+the+Aztecs%27+92%E2%80%9348+victory+over+San+Diego+Christian+on+Dec.+18.+

Kareem Jones

Senior forward Yanni Wetzell scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in the Aztecs' 92–48 victory over San Diego Christian on Dec. 18.

by Kyle Betz, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 20 San Diego State men’s basketball had no issue taking care of business against San Diego Christian on Dec. 18 at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs (11-0, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) were led by senior forward Yanni Wetzell, who collected 17 points, six rebounds and one assist. The game marked the Aztecs’ fourth of the season in which they haven’t surrendered more than 49 points.

Here are three observations from the game.

Shooting improvements

SDSU rebounded from a 31.7% shooting performance in the narrow victory over San José State on Dec. 8 with a 56.9% showing on Wednesday.

Wetzell and senior guard KJ Feagin played a big part in that.

The Vanderbilt transfer collected his 17 points on seven-of-10 shooting.

One of the biggest highlights of the first half was a sequence that led to a Wetzell dunk with 14:29 left to play. A defensive steal from Mensah led to a pass to Feagin, who fed Wetzell with an impressive one-handed pass to finish with a two-handed slam. At that point, the Aztecs were on a 14-0 run.

The Santa-Clara transfer made two 3-pointers in the first half – more than his total a week-and-a-half ago against San Jose State, when he scored three points on one-for-10 shooting from the field.

Feagin said he’s not worried about his recent shooting struggles.

“It feels good, but as a team I know the work we put in every day,” Feagin said. “That’s not something I’m worried about, even just personally. I know shots are going to come.”

Feagin nearly tied his season-high in points, as he scored 12 points along with four rebounds and eight assists.

Coach Brian Dutcher said Feagin’s performance against the Hawks might help his shooting numbers in critical upcoming games, including the Dec. 21 matchup against Utah at Staples Center.

“Maybe a game like this is the kind of one that gets him off the low side of the shooting percentage,” Dutcher said. “He starts getting his confidence back up and he starts making shots, it’ll make us even more dangerous.”

At the end of the first half, the Aztecs were shooting 53.3% from the field.

Eight different Aztecs also scored in the first 20 minutes of play, and 11 were able to contribute to the scoreboard by the end of the night.

New looks on defense

The Scarlet and Black tried new defensive schemes throughout the game, including a 2-2-1 press to zone defense.

“Today, we tried out some new defensive coverages to kind of put some things in motion and get away from our original man offense,” Feagin said.

The different defensive looks came after the Aztecs’ lead was cut to three points early in the first half.

The Hawks were able to improve upon their run with a Marc Combs jumper that brought the score to 19-16 with 7:45 left in the first.

“I didn’t overreact to it,” Dutcher said. “I probably sat on the bench longer than I’ve sat in a year or two. I wanted the guys to figure it out themselves, get out there, play and talk amongst themselves.”

By that point, the Hawks were shooting 43.8% from the field, but the Aztecs held firm defensively and allowed their opponent to score just 33.3% of their shots by the final buzzer.

The longest scoreless stretch for the Hawks lasted for the first five minutes of the second half.

Dominating the paint

Another key to victory for the Aztecs was converting high-percentage looks in the low post.

Wetzell collected two blocks and a steal while Mensah added seven points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

The Hawks only had one player taller than 6-foot-6 in their starting lineup, yielding a significant low-post advantage for the Aztecs’ two 6-foot-10 starting big men in Wetzell and sophomore forward Nathan Mensah.

Wetzell said the size different gave SDSU an edge near the basket.

“Obviously, we had a lot more size than them,” Wetzell said. “We just kind of played to our strength in that department.”

SDSU also scored 46 points in the paint compared to the Hawks’ 20.

Dutcher said what got those points was efficiency on passes.

“It wasn’t like we were running a lot of post-up plays,” Dutcher said. “So I was appreciative of the way they shared the ball on their penetration.”

Senior forward Nolan Narain made his first appearance of the season and contributed with three points, five rebounds, two assists and a block.

SDSU won the rebounding battle 43-30, with the Aztecs collecting 17 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points.

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