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 nearly lose double digit lead, escape with 79-78 victory over Nevada

Carson Cook
San Diego State heads back to the bench during their game against Fresno State on March 3.

San Diego State (21-7, 13-4 Mountain West Conference) is now on a three-game winning streak and has won nine of their past ten games. 

It almost didn’t happen. Heck, maybe it shouldn’t have happened.

On Feb. 28, the Aztecs had played at 7,200 feet above elevation in front of thousands of volatile Wyoming fans. On Thursday, SDSU essentially ran a marathon on Senior Night during a one-point double-overtime win against Fresno State.

All of that takes a toll on the human body and — in the final eight minutes with a 17-point lead against a Nevada (12-17, 6-12 MWC) team waiting for the season to end — it happened.

Slowly but steadily, the Wolf Pack began to chip away at the lead as the Aztecs’ stamina dropped and dropped. The breakdown was nearly complete after a Nevada 3-pointer but two clutch blocks prevented a collapse and SDSU escaped with a 79-78 win.

“This is probably the hardest month we have ever played in Aztec Basketball. Game after game after game and we played Monday in Wyoming, played Thursday at home and Saturday in Reno. That is hard,” head coach Brian Dutcher said to “We found a way to gut out a win, against a team that had a couple days off and was waiting for us on Senior Night. They are never as pretty as you want them but when you put the win at the end of the column, it’s everything you wanted.” 

The Aztecs started off slow, scoring just one bucket on their first six possessions, forcing Dutcher to call a timeout to reassess the troops.

As both sides traded blows in the first half, Nevada junior Grant Sheffield made a grave mistake: he showed up on the SDSU bench.

Sheffield shoved off senior Trey Pulliam with his right arm before stepping back and draining a 3-pointer. His reward was a shoulder block from Pulliam.

SDSU proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to take a lead. In the second half, they ran rampant on the offensive front and raced out to a 17-point lead with eight minutes to go.

Sounds about as safe a lead as ever, right?

That was before senior Joshua Tomaic fouled out. Usually, that wouldn’t be a problem, but senior Aguek Arop was scratched before the game and fellow senior Tahirou Diabate suffered an injury in the second half. That left senior Nathan Mensah as the lone big man off of Dutcher’s bench.

Mensha, however, struggles at altitude and Reno, Nevada just so happens to be over 4,000 feet in elevation.

Then there were the turnovers. Facing the press, SDSU coughed up the ball six times in the final four minutes. The Scarlet and Black had 19 total turnovers in the game and Nevada took advantage, scoring 21 total points off of turnovers.

As the lead slipped and slipped, fans and players alike feared a collapse. Said fears were intensified when senior Desmond Cambridge Jr sank a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. 

Senior Matt Bradley turned the ball over after getting the inbound and Nevada had two opportunities to tie the game. The first was swatted out of bounds by Mensah and the second was slapped away by junior Keshad Johnson… with .2 seconds remaining in the game.

Lead intact. Game over, Aztecs win.

Unfortunately, the win had absolutely no bearing on SDSU’s standings in the upcoming Mountain West Tournament. Colorado State had another non-call go in their favor to beat Boise State 71-68 and secured the No. 2 seed, all while locking SDSU into the No. 3 seed.

SDSU will be facing the winner between Fresno State and last-place San Jose State on March 10, but they will really be trying to improve their metrics for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. 

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
Aztecs nearly lose double digit lead, escape with 79-78 victory over Nevada