San Diego State men’s basketball clinched the outright Mountain West regular season title after defeating New Mexico by a score of 82-59 on Feb. 11 at Viejas Arena.
Big performances from junior forward Matt Mitchell (22 points) and senior forward Yanni Wetzell (20 points) helped the Aztecs (25-0, 14-0 Mountain West Conference) lift the Mountain West Conference trophy.
1. Aztecs clinch regular season conference title, No. 1 seed in Mountain West tournament
For the first time since 2015-16, SDSU will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
A 75-72 Utah State win over Colorado State meant the Aztecs would at least share the title.
But a win over New Mexico gave the Scarlet and Black the outright conference title – SDSU’s 12th in school history.
Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said winning the conference in early February is a massive achievement.
“The hardest thing in basketball — obviously, other than winning the Final Four — is winning a regular season conference title, because you have to do it over the whole season,” Dutcher said. “To have the title outright already with four games to play is an incredible accomplishment.”
Dutcher and each player had the opportunity to cut down a piece of the net after the victory.
“I always think it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Dutcher said of cutting down the net. “It’s the moment that we’re doing it. It’s exciting. You kind of realize a lot of the hard work you put in.”
The last time SDSU was the No. 1 seed in the MW Tournament was in 2015-16, when the Aztecs finished the season with a 28-10 overall record (16-2 in conference) but missed out on the NCAA Tournament.
This time, the Aztecs will play the No. 8 or No. 9 seed on March 5 in the conference tournament.
But for now, the Aztecs will aim to reach 18-0 in conference play — a feat that has never been accomplished before in Mountain West history.
2. Matt Mitchell passes Kawhi Leonard on SDSU’s all-time scoring list, tops 1,000 career points
From one Inland Empire kid to another.
Mitchell entered the night 15 career points short of 1,000 and five short of Kawhi Leonard’s career points total.
After 11 points in the first half, Mitchell moved ahead of Leonard on SDSU’s all-time scoring list — good for 34th in program history.
“I actually didn’t know that. Wow,” Mitchell said of surpassing Leonard. “I’m happy I was able to do that. I feel like that’s good company to be in.”
Mitchell then eclipsed the 1,000-point mark early on in the second half with a short-range jumper.
“It’s special to me because I was able to reach 1,000 — not only reach it, but reach it on the night that we could hang a banner and win the conference,” Mitchell said. “I definitely will cherish tonight, but tomorrow, got to let it go and move on to the next four games we have.”
He added seven more points, including a tomahawk slam dunk to tie the Aztecs in scoring in the second half.
“Our defense picked up in the second half,” Mitchell said. “We definitely wanted this tonight. We wanted to win this on the home court, and we came out and I think we showed that in the second half.”
Mitchell passed Leonard, Randy Holcomb and Kim Goetz en route to claiming 32nd all-time in the SDSU scoring record books at 1,007 career points.
3. Wetzell comes alive when needed
SDSU started the game 0-for-5 from 3-point range and went on a four-minute scoring drought in the middle of the first half.
For the first 20 minutes, the score remained within five points for both sides.
But Wetzell was the spark the Aztecs needed offensively.
He led all scorers in the first half with 14 points (83% from the field), two rebounds and an assist.
“The guards found me on a lot of (ball screen) slips,” Wetzell said. “My legs felt good today, so I was just trying to get up and down the court and be as aggressive as possible.”
It’s the 17th time this season the New Zealand native had double figures in the first half.
He added six points in the second period, totaling 20 points and nine rebounds.