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 secure a nail-biting 64-61 win to move to MWC semifinals

SDSU rallied past 11 lead changes and nine ties to defeat Colorado State in the final minutes
Huy Huynh
SDSU senior Keshad Johnson pulls up for a mid-range jumper against Colorado State University.

LAS VEGAS – The San Diego State University men’s basketball team opened up its run at the Mountain West Conference Tournament with a stomach-turning 64-61 win over Colorado State.

The Aztecs started the game on the wrong end of the scoreboard. The Rams took an 8-0 lead early while junior Lamont Butler saw one shot fall short and the other too long before the Aztecs finally got on the board with senior Keshad Johnson’s layup assisted by senior Matt Bradley. Colorado’s 8-0 run ended up being the largest lead of the entire game.

“Yeah, they caught fire,” Bradley said. “I think the good thing we did do is that we didn’t get rattled. We kind of sped up in the beginning. I think with the energy in the building, our fans being there, you know, it was crazy. Once we slowed down the tempo and started playing our game, we got back in there.”

The Aztecs struggled to hit jumpshots early so they continued to resort to attacking the rim by substituting in senior Jaedon Ledee to help Johnson out down low. The Rams pressured the Aztecs hard on the three-point line making life tough for SDSU outside the perimeter.

“Coach has been harping on that since the start of the year, ‘Just get to the rim,’” Butler said. “You’re going to find it from there.”

Following the nervy start, the Aztecs composed and found themselves down by just one at 12-11. Four of the Aztecs’ first five buckets were around the rim, with senior Adam Seiko’s 3-pointer being the only made jumper for the Scarlet and Black in the opening seven minutes. 

The Aztecs remained just in reach of the Rams yet they did not manage to secure a lead until late. The first half featured three ties — the 0-0 score at tipoff and 20-20 with 7:24 to go in the half. 

The third tie came following an and-one layup by Butler at the 3:25 mark, and was quickly followed by the Aztecs’ first lead as Butler laced his free throw to go up 24-23. Once SDSU took its first lead, its defense and offense steadied for the remainder of the half. 

For the final 3:25, the Aztecs held the Rams to 1-5 from the field, forced two turnovers, two blocks and secured three rebounds en route to a 27-25 lead.

In a very even first half, SDSU shot 10-27 from the field while CSU shot 10-28. The Aztecs outrebounded the Rams 24-13 yet doubled their turnovers 8-4.

The Aztecs started the second half exactly the way they cut into the lead in the first. Johnson found himself down low and backed himself into a hook shot about two feet from the rim. 

The Aztecs briefly extended their lead to 31-27 before allowing a 6-0 run for the Rams. As they seem to have responded all game when faced with adversity, the Aztecs answered by sending the ball down low once more, this time LeDee finishing softly around the rim with a hook to tie the score at 33. 

LeDee was an important factor off the Aztec bench. Despite leading the game in turnovers with five, LeDee was the third-highest scorer for the Aztecs with 10 and led the team in rebounds with eight alongside Johnson.

The Rams regained the lead and narrowly held onto it until the 10:38 mark when Seiko intelligently found a wide-open Johnson under the rim for the flush to take a 38-37 lead. 

The teams continued delivering blows to each other like it was a heavy-weight boxing match rather than a college basketball one.

With just about seven minutes remaining in the game, Stevens hit two free throws to bring the scores even once more. 

Seven minutes of basketball remaining to decide the fate of these two evenly matched sides.

The Aztecs were first to crumble as senior Nathan Mensah turned the ball over while trying to secure a catch. Colorado junior Isaiah Stevens walked the ball down the floor and hit a side-step three before Butler came right back and did the same.

Two of SDSU’s biggest contributors started to factor in during the remaining stretch. A block by LeDee followed by a Butler layup gave the Aztecs the lead before a sophomore Jalen Lake three brought the Rams ahead 53-52. A big Bradley bucket on the baseline gave the Aztecs the lead once more right after.

SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher, senior Matt Bradley and junior Lamont Butler crack a smile during the post-game press conference after defeating Colorado State University.
SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher, senior Matt Bradley and junior Lamont Butler crack a smile during the post-game press conference after defeating Colorado State University. (Huy Huynh)

Following an Aztec timeout, Seiko got the crowd jumping with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to five before LeDee added a free throw. Aztecs led 58-53, their largest of the night.

Lake’s hand had yet to cool down from his earlier 3-point make as he came down the floor and hit another. Aztec junior Micah Parrish tried to respond but saw his three blocked. Stevens then took matters into his own hands with a three that bounced around the rim for a few seconds before falling in.

“The plan was really just to deny him (Stevens),” Butler said. “He is a great player, he led them all year. It was hard to do, but it was more of a team effort, honestly.”

LeDee once again got to the line and gave the Aztecs a one-point lead at 60-59 with 1:20 to go.

The Rams had two possessions to salvage their tournament. The first was unsuccessful following a shot clock violation. Butler saw his shot blocked and Stevens ran down the floor with another chance to take the lead but his layup bounced off the backboard, the front of the rim and into the safe hands of Mensah on the rebound. 

The Rams fouled Bradley with 16 seconds to go. He laced his free throws giving the Aztecs a three-point lead and leaving them one stop away from securing a semifinal spot. Stevens easily made his way down the court and scored a layup as the Aztecs prioritized the perimeter, and cut the lead to one with 10 seconds to go.

The Rams fouled Mensah who hit one free throw before blocking Cartier’s game-tying putback attempt at the other end. He was fouled once again and made one more before Stevens saw his full-court game-tying shot bounce off the rim.

“We were fortunate to win, we all know that,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “It’s hard to win a college basketball game, and we’re grateful to be playing tomorrow.”

A nail-biting end to an incredibly intense quarterfinal matchup for the Aztecs. Tomorrow they will play San Jose State in the semifinals. 

About the Contributors
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.
Huy Huynh, Staff Writer
Huy Huynh was born and raised in San Diego, California and attended Patrick Henry High School in Del Cerro. After graduating, he studied at Grossmont College, right before transferring to San Diego State University as a psychology major with a minor in Digital and Social Media Studies. In his free time, he enjoys reading, making music, or creating videos, which he also does for work as a freelance videographer/editor. He is currently a staff writer for the Daily Aztec, working in multiple sections such as Arts and Culture as well as the News section. Huy is also bilingual in Vietnamese.
Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Aztecs secure a nail-biting 64-61 win to move to MWC semifinals