Aztecs mark 15th straight wins against Air Force with 76-64 at Viejas

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Jessica Parga

Aguek Arop (33) drives to the basket against Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr.

by Sumaia Wegner, Staff Writer

The San Diego State Aztecs (15-6, 7-3 Mountain West Conference) added yet another win to their record, as they faced the Air Force Falcons (10-13, 3-9 MWC) at the Viejas Arena on Saturday.

The Falcons were greeted by the Scarlet and Black, who wore their black uniforms for the first time in over two years to show honor to Falcon’s center Ryan Swan, who is being treated for his battle with brain cancer. 

“People think athletes are like visible supernatural people. We are just human, like everyone else. Hearing the statement about Ryan was really hard,” said junior forward Keshad Johnson. “It gives you a reality check. These Air Force guys are serving our country. We have to cherish every moment and stay prayed up.”

Playing against and beating the Falcons 76-64 at home has become somewhat ceremonial for the Aztecs. 

Regardless of a slip on the floor from senior guard Matt Bradley in the first half and 16 total turnovers, the Aztecs came to show that they too can fly high. It can be assumed that the slip took away one point (or the usual many points) from Bradley as he finished with 13 points and 5 assists. Senior forward Nathan Mensah led the team with 14 points and six rebounds. 

Johnson scored 11 points and four rebounds. Seniors Trey Pulliam and Tahirou Diabate, along with sophomore Chad Baker-Mazara contributed nine points each. The Aztecs had their best field goal percentage at 64% since 2013.

The Falcons kept it close in the first half as there were seven ties and eight lead changes, utilizing a Princeton offense with guard AJ Walker contributing 27 points. 

That was still not enough as Pulliam made a buzzer-beating jumper shot to put the Aztecs at 37-33.

In the second half, it was the Aztecs’ notably incredible defense that had the Falcons shooting 40% from the field. The offense also heated up as SDSU made 25 of 40 shots.

With recent changes in schedule due to measuring protocols, players have only had two to four days to prepare for a match against opponent teams.

“That is probably one of the biggest challenges the team had to face this year” Johnson said. “Having quick turnarounds and to make up for games we lost, but San Diego State basketball- we prepare better than anyone else in the NCAA. We are glad to be here, glad to have the coach and staff we do that has us ready to go for every game”.

Head coach Dutcher had his thoughts on the limited prep days as well.

Obviously we take more comfort in the fact where if you have many days, you can take a day for yourself,” Dutcher said. “You know, we have very little time to spend on ourselves. We will say let’s pick these three or four plays. We think this will be successful in this game and that we really prep for the opponent. So, it’s harder on shorter prep.”

Regardless of prep time, Dutcher was content with the win against Airforce.

“The key to Air Force is not giving them offensive rebounds,” Dutcher said.  “Say you guard 30, then you guard 30 more in the same possession, you know, not turning the ball over a lot-where suddenly you have three seconds and now you’re guarding number 30. So, we all know what that is, that their pace can affect the game and really we’re a team out, but I thought we did a pretty good job.”

SDSU faces Utah on Tuesday at Viejas. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.