San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

SDSU press Nevada to the brink, bring home a 65-63 win

Owen Ekstrom
Trey Pulliam (right) pivots in front of two New Mexico defenders during SDSU’s 72-47 defeat of the Lobos on Monday, Jan. 31.

For the first five minutes of action, the San Diego State Aztecs looked like they hadn’t recovered from their heartbreaking loss to the Colorado State Rams.

Taking on the Nevada Wolfpack on Feb. 6, (9-12, 3-7 Mountain West Conference), the Aztecs (13-6, 5-3 MWC) seemed… disheartened. The bench was quiet and the shots just weren’t falling. Even The Show — SDSU’s frenzied student section — was dotted with empty seats.

It showed on the court. With the offense unable to find open shots, the Wolfpack — who were missing their two best players in juniors Grant Sherfield and Warren Washington — raced out to an early 22-9 lead and didn’t miss a shot for the first five minutes of the game.

It had gotten to a point where Dutcher felt the need to call a timeout.

“If you’re gonna have a bad spurt, have it at the start of the game,” Dutcher explained to the media. “We have all sorts of time to get back in this game. Just hang in there. Don’t get frustrated, they’re making some good shots. they’re playing well. We’re not playing well, but we can turn it in a heartbeat.”

It wasn’t without drama, but SDSU would walk away from Viejas Arena with a nail-biting 65-63 victory to keep their NCAA playoff hopes alive.

Staring down 12-points, the Scarlet and Black grabbed their metaphorical shovels and got to work digging out the hole they got themselves into.

A quick two-pointer and a 3-point shot off a fast break from senior Matt Bradley was just the spark SDSU needed. It also helped that the Wolfpack went ice-cold from the field and developed a nasty habit of turning the ball over.

Meanwhile, the Aztecs had caught fire. In a span of 10 minutes, SDSU went on a torrid 19-2 run, slashing away at Nevada’s defense with a combination of layups and free throws. A Bradley 3-pointer knotted the game at 24 and a free throw gave SDSU their first lead of the game after nearly 15 minutes of basketball.

The Aztecs had come back. Great. Now, could they hold onto the lead? Nevada certainly wasn’t making it easy, but Dutcher employed an old trick that had helped bridge the gap the game before against CSU: the full-court press.

Targeting fill-in junior point guard Kenan Blackshear, the Aztecs dogged the Wolf Pack with the press in the latter part of the first half.

“We were trying to wear Blackshear down,” Dutcher said. “I mean, he’s not a true point guard, even though he did a great job at the point. We were just trying to press to wear their legs out so we could have a run.”

The full court press is something of a double-edged sword. The opposing team is constantly pressured and is more prone to mistakes, but at the same time, it tests the employing team’s cardio and physical endurance while whittling down a player’s stamina.

When asked if the team was ready for more pressing, Bradley said he believed his teammates were more than ready to take advantage of the strategy.

“I like it, I think if me and the guys get in better shape, it’s something we can do,” Bradley said. “I was talking to Trey and some of the older guys and they said it’s something they did in previous years… I think we are willing to take on the challenge of pressuring teams full court for more minutes of the game.”

Still, Nevada wasn’t throwing in the towel just because the Aztecs had landed a flurry of body blows. To them, the game had just gotten started.

After Trey Pulliam opened the second half with a two-point jump shot, Blackshear and senior Desmond Cambridge Jr. hit back-to-back 3-pointers to vault Nevada back into the lead.

If the name “Desmond Cambridge Jr.” strikes a familiar chord, that’s because it should. As a sophomore playing for Brown University back in 2018, Cambridge Jr. scored 25 points while leading Brown University to a massive 82-61 upset of the Aztecs in Viejas Arena on Dec. 29, 2018.

Against the Aztecs, Cambridge Jr. continued to haunt Viejas Arena, dropping 18 points while making five 3-point shots.

Those numbers are pretty good. But this time, it wasn’t good enough.

After trading the lead between each other, the Wolf Pack created some separation on a Will Baker 3-pointer and a layup from Cambridge Jr. 

Then, junior Keshad Johnson lit up Viejas Arena with a patented Sportscenter Top-10 worthy dunk and made an ensuing free throw.

After two Nevada free throws, Bradley made a 3-pointer… then another… and then another… and capped it off with a layup. Senior Joshua Tomaic — as part of an eight-point game — scored another two-point bucket with an and-one. A turnover led to Pulliam dropping another two-pointer, stretching SDSU’s lead to eight.

But Nevada didn’t hear a bell and kept boxing, clinging onto SDSU’s side no matter what. 

It took quite literally the last seconds of the game, but three free throws from Butler and Bradley put the Wolf Pack to sleep and the Aztecs were disheartened no more.

About the Contributor
Jason Freund
Jason Freund, Sports Editor
Jason Freund is a journalism major from Santee, Calif. He hopes to become a sports journalist for a Major League Baseball team or a reporter for another major sport. In his free time, Jason enjoys listening to music, going to the gym and watching baseball. Jason began writing for The Daily Aztec in October 2019 and also writes for the East Village Times. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonfreund_.
Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
SDSU press Nevada to the brink, bring home a 65-63 win