Turnovers nearly cost No. 22 San Diego State in nailbiter versus Troy University

Aztecs and Trojans each commit 17 turnovers in battle of strengths

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Sophia O'Dell

Senior Matt Bradley attacking the court in the game against Troy on Dec. 5, 2022.

by Justin Cox, Sports Editor

The Troy University Trojans certainly aren’t a household name. 

Located in Troy, Alabama the school plays in the Sun Belt Conference and has only two Division I NCAA Tournament appearances and zero wins over ranked opponents. However, just last month its name was etched into college basketball history. 

Senior guard Nelson Phillips snatched a total of 13 steals in a win over Southern University-New Orleans on Nov. 22, tying the NCAA single game record set twice by Daron “Mookie” Blaylock in 1987 and 1988 — an astounding feat in just 27 minutes of game time. 

It isn’t just Phillips who causes havoc on the defensive end. The Trojans entered Monday night’s game versus No. 22 San Diego State sitting at 15th in the nation in steals, averaging 10.2 per game and forcing a total of 18.3 turnovers. 

If they were going to leave Viejas Arena with a win over a ranked opponent for the first time in school history, they would have to lurk in Aztec passing lanes, pick pockets and muck up the game as much as possible. 

It looked as if they were going to do just that as with only 10:31 remaining they held a 45-37 lead, but the Aztecs offense rallied to escape with a 60-55 win, one that certainly didn’t come as easy as it may have appeared. 

“Another hard-fought game,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We knew Troy was good, they had our full attention.” 

Troy’s defensive game plan worked to perfection in the first half with the Aztecs looking sloppy and out of control at times on offense. Back court violations, poor passes and offensive fouls fueled the Trojans as they forced 10 Aztec turnovers in the first half, almost what the Aztecs average per game (11.75). After more passes were intercepted early in the second half, the Aztecs were officially on upset watch. 

However, as good teams tend to do, the Aztecs slowed down and began to attack a pressure defense that continued to jump passing lanes. 

“We just had to understand we were going to be denied and just play our game,” senior guard Darrion Trammell said. “We were trying to force our entries and making it super hard. The easiest play was to go at the pressure.” 

Both Trammell and senior guard Matt Bradley made big shots down the stretch as they scored the Aztecs last 10 points of the game. The last two Aztecs field goals were a tough contested layup by Trammell and a hook shot by Bradley. 

Despite the Aztecs committing 17 turnovers, what kept them in the game was their own defense. The Aztecs defensive style is one with less pressure. Instead SDSU uses its length to its advantage by taking away driving lanes and playing in the gaps. What might appear to be a more relaxed defense compared to the swarming pressure of the Trojans, proved to be just as effective as the Aztecs forced 17 turnovers themselves. 

“It’s interesting to see how two different styles force the same turnovers and are effective defensively,” Dutcher said.  

A big difference between the two teams was the Aztecs taking advantage of the turnovers they created. They doubled the Trojans in points off turnovers (14-7) which proved to be vital as points were hard to come by in a game between two elite defenses. 

The narrow win may prove to be an important lesson for the Aztecs as they continue on this season as any NCAA team may have a game-wrecking ability — even one like Troy University. 

“We were in store for a very tough game, and it was,” Dutcher said. “But to our credit we fought through.”