Mitchell scores career-high, Aztecs’ comeback bid falls short in upset loss to Brigham Young

Senior+forward+Matt+Mitchell+attempts+a+fadeaway+jumper+during+the+Aztecs+72-62+loss+to+Brigham+Young+on+Dec.+18+at+Viejas+Arena.+Mitchell+scored+a+career-high+35+points+in+the+losing+effort.

Kyle Betz

Senior forward Matt Mitchell attempts a fadeaway jumper during the Aztecs’ 72-62 loss to Brigham Young on Dec. 18 at Viejas Arena. Mitchell scored a career-high 35 points in the losing effort.

by Breven Honda, Senior Staff Writer

For just the third time since the beginning of last season, No. 18/20 San Diego State men’s basketball was handed a loss. 

Brigham Young came into Viejas Arena for the first time in two years and defeated the Scarlet and Black 72-62. 

SDSU trailed by as much as 17 points at the end of the first half and came all the way back to tie the game late, but could not come through. 

Aztecs’ head coach Brian Dutcher said the team will improve but liked the comeback mentality from his players during the second half.

“We knew this was going to be a very good game,” Dutcher said. “I like the grit of my team. It’s an early-season game so we’re going to learn from it. We fought our way to a tie late in the second half. I’m proud of my team’s effort. I thought we fought back, which is hard to do sometimes, and credit to BYU. They played a good game and were deserving of the win.”

One thing that went well for SDSU was senior forward Matt Mitchell.

Entering today, Mitchell had a career-high 31 points in a game his freshman year. 

Since then, he’s come close a couple times, but today, he posted a new career-high 35 points including 26 points in the second half. 

Dutcher said Mitchell was able to get through a disparity in the BYU defense. 

“When they went big and we went small, that’s when we went to Matt on the perimeter,” Dutcher said. “He hit a couple threes, isolated their bigs and we got him rolling because we played that mismatch.” 

Mitchell said he felt that he had to step up because his teammates could not find a rhythm offensively. 

“It was more or less I felt some of my teammates couldn’t make shots,” Mitchell said. “I thought there was a lid on the rim, so I got a little more aggressive and shots started falling. Me scoring 35, (senior guard Jordan Schakel) had 25 last game. These guys are very capable guys and I’m sure this was an off night.”

Outside of Mitchell’s scoring, SDSU shot 9-of-40 from the field. 

That’s 23%.

Schakel and senior guard Trey Pulliam combined to shoot 1-of-9 from the field. Junior forward Nathan Mensah and senior guard Terrell Gomez each shot 1-of-5. 

“I thought we had some opportunities we didn’t take advantage of,” Dutcher said of the miscues. “(Junior forward Aguek Arop) had a layup he missed. (Sophomore forward) Keshad Johnson had an offensive rebound he missed. Terrell Gomez, one of our best three-point shooters, had two wide open threes. In some regards, the offense can only create the shots and we have to make them.” 

In addition to the offensive woes, SDSU had rebounding problems. 

The Aztecs’ leading rebounders were Arop and Pulliam, who each had four. 

Dutcher said getting boards on both ends of the floor was crucial.

“The one thing we put on the board that would be the key to the game is who won the rebound battle, and last year we won the rebound battle in Provo,” Dutcher said. “Tonight, they won the rebound battle 40-26. That was a huge part of the game.”

For BYU, senior guard Alex Barcello had a game-high 22 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists.  

Up next, SDSU takes on its third West Coast Conference team in St. Mary’s on Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. on a neutral floor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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