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

Aztecs win in wild 65-64 double OT match on Senior Night

Keshad+Johnson+prepares+to+take+a+free+throw+during+SDSUs+65-64+win+over+Fresno+State+on+Senior+Night.
Carson Cook
Keshad Johnson prepares to take a free throw during SDSU’s 65-64 win over Fresno State on Senior Night.

It was a sold-out student section for San Diego State’s (20-7, 12-4 Mountain West Conference) final home game of the regular season.

To the delight of the crowd, the Aztecs beat the Fresno State Bulldogs (18-11, 8-8 MWC) 65-64 in double-overtime.

Prior to the opening tip, seniors Aguek Arop, Tahirou Diabate, Nathan Mensah, Trey Pulliam, and Joshua Tomaic were all honored on Senior Night with plaqued jerseys and a massive reception from The Show.

Unsurprisingly, Mensah came out to heartwarming chants of “one more year” from the entire arena. 

Thursday’s win meant that the Aztecs eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the fifth straight season and the 26th time in school history.

“We couldn’t have done it without the crowd we had here tonight, we couldn’t have done it without the seniors we honored before the game, and we couldn’t have done it without contributions from everyone that played,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “It was a good hard-fought team victory.”

First half

Right off the tip, senior Matt Bradley — who is returning to SDSU next season — drove down the lane before snatching the ball back for a mid-range jumper.

But fouling trouble became an issue early on once again.

The Bulldogs’ first offensive possession resulted in a shooting foul on Mensah and less than a minute later, he would receive his second personal foul.

Even with the fouls, the Aztecs remained a presence defensively all half.

SDSU forced six turnovers out of the Bulldogs in the opening 10 minutes and were able to take six more shots while shooting 13 percent better as they took an early lead at 17-10.

With the final possession in the hands of the Aztecs, they had the chance to extend their three-point lead going into halftime, but instead turned the ball over and sent Bulldogs senior guard Junior Ballard to the line.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Ballard cracked under pressure, missing both free throws sending the game to halftime at 27-24. 

The half ended with the Aztecs shooting 10-of-27 from the field and the Bulldogs shooting 6-17. An advantage in rebounds (18-to-13), forced turnovers (10-to-8) and field goal attempts (27-to-17) are all strong contributors to the Aztecs’ first-half lead. 

Second Half

The Bulldogs were the first to land a punch in the second half as junior Jordan Cambell — who de-committed from SDSU — drifted into the lane for a cool floater.

But, “Anything you can do I can do better,” is probably what Pulliam said as he took the ball down the court and hit a floater with an ever higher arch than Campbell’s

Bradley again proved to be the bright spot for the Aztecs. With seven minutes elapsed in the half, Bradley hit a tough three-pointer plus the foul to amp up the Aztec crowd. Bradley ended the game with 26 points, eclipsing his season average of 17.2 ppg.

But two pairs of back-to-back threes by Campbell and junior Anthony Holland kept the Bulldogs barking and gave them a 46-41 lead.

The biggest plays of the game were still yet to come. After a missed Aztec free-throw, Mensah grabbed the board and emphatically dunked the ball back in the face of Bulldogs’ sophomore center Braxton Meah. The lead was cut to 45-46 with the Aztecs still trailing.

The following six minutes of basketball would be one of the loudest six minutes at Viejas Arena.

“It was crazy,” Johnson said. “This was probably one of the most packed games of the year and you could feel that. When we made a shot everyone went crazy and even when we went down and needed an advantage the show was there.”

“Without the crowd being there, the result may have been different,” Bradley said. They definitely had an effect on the game on Fresno state and on us.”

Bradley took the game into his own hands with 2:30 left using the backboard to guide his layup in. Bradley then stripped Campbell of the ball before drawing a charge from him the following play. The lead was 50-49 with 1:42 and the Aztecs had possession. 

Bradley calmly called for the ball again on offense, posted his man up, and spun around for a turnaround jumper — money. 

In the end, it was a senior who potentially won the game for the Aztecs. In trademark fashion, Pulliam drove to his stronger right side and floated in a two-pointer to give the Aztecs a three-point lead with 20 seconds to go.

But just as the Bulldogs had done all night, they never stopped believing they had a chance to win this one.

With less than five seconds left the ball found its way into Ballard’s hands who pump-faked and sent an Aztec defender flying past him. As the crowd silenced, Ballard sent his three-point shot into the air — splash. With 0.7 seconds left on the clock, the Aztecs couldn’t get another shot off. This one was headed for overtime.

Overtime

Overtime was still Bradley’s time. Another turnaround jumper fell late, this time after touching every part of the rim and the backboard.

“The rim seemed really wide open for me,” Bradley said. “Miss or make I just needed to do what I needed to do and luckily they fell through for me.”

Yet again, the Bulldogs were right there, as two offensive rebounds after two missed Holland threes ended with two-pointer pus the foul for Robinson. The game was tied at 60 with less than a minute to go.

Pulliam had the opportunity to again give the Aztecs a late lead but this time his shot didn’t fall and the Bulldogs had a chance at the win with eight seconds left on the clock. Bulldog junior Deon Stroud had their chance at the winner with a deep three but saw his shot smack off the back of the win, to double overtime we went.

Second Overtime

A few more minutes of scrappy basketball and the Aztecs found themselves up 65-64 with 35 seconds to go, but the ball was in the hands of the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs drove into what looked like an open lane, but out of nowhere came Keshad Johnson to block the shot and regain possession for the Aztecs.

“It was instincts really. whether I should go over or stay for the drop-off but I was able to stay for both and make a late help decision and get that done.”

With 11 seconds to go, the Bulldogs’ only option was to foul.

Pulliam was sent to the line, but to the dismay of Aztec fans, missed both free throws. 

The fate of the game lay on the Aztecs’ defense. As Isaiah Hill brought the ball up the court, he worked his way into a stepback three-pointer but saw it smack off the rim and fly over the backboard. The Aztecs went on to win 65-64 in double overtime.

The Aztecs next travel to Reno to play the University of Nevada on Saturday, March 5 to end the regular season.

“Our best basketball is ahead of us,” Dutcher said. “We have to believe that, we have to believe it’ll happen on Saturday and then in the conference tournament and then in the NCAA tournament. If you believe it, it can happen.”

About the Contributor
Morgan Prickett, '22-23 Sports Editor
Morgan Prickett (he/him/his) is a journalism major heading into his senior year. He was born in Libreville, Gabon and has lived in multiple countries before arriving here at SDSU. He is a soccer writer for the local news site East Village Times, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at SDSU, and also serves as the VP of External Relations on SDSU’s School of Professional Studies and Fine Arts College Council. If he’s not watching or playing sports, he’s most likely jamming out to music while preparing a home cooked meal in his kitchen. This year he is looking forward to bringing coverage to all sports at SDSU in the most entertaining way possible.
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Aztecs win in wild 65-64 double OT match on Senior Night