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

Men’s basketball tops New Mexico, 81-70, on electrifying ‘blackout’ night

Jaedon Ledee led the team with 23 points, and double-digit scoring nights from Elijah Saunders and Lamont Butler put the game away
San+Diego+State+forward+Elijah+Saunders+catches+a+lob+for+an+alley-oop+dunk+against+New+Mexico+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+16+at+Viejas+Arena.+Saunders+12+points+were+the+most+in+a+Mountain+West+game+in+his+career+as+the+Aztecs+beat+the+Lobos+81-70.
Noelani Sapla
San Diego State forward Elijah Saunders catches a lob for an alley-oop dunk against New Mexico on Friday, Feb. 16 at Viejas Arena. Saunders’ 12 points were the most in a Mountain West game in his career as the Aztecs beat the Lobos 81-70.

San Diego State men’s basketball took care of business against the New Mexico Lobos, 81-70, on Friday night in front of an electric blackout game crowd, showcasing their dominance on Steve Fisher Court.

The Aztecs (20-6, 9-4 Mountain West) continued their win streak at Viejas Arena, putting it at 13 straight. Home wins have kept the Aztecs in the race for a top spot in the Mountain West as they have gone a perfect 7-0, helping them climb to second in the conference standings. 

Aztec forward Jaedon LeDee led the game with a 23-point night and added four steals. Lamont Butler scored 13 points and Elijah Saunders scored 12 points off the bench, pushing the Aztecs past the Lobos. 

Head coach Brian Dutcher was pleased with the collaborative performance and effort from his squad.

“This was the first game we felt like everybody contributed,” Dutcher said. “Everybody played at a high level. That was the case. Everyone who came off the bench produced and the starters produced.”

The two sophomore spark plugs, Saunders and Miles Byrd, contributed with energy and clutch plays. With six minutes left in the second half and the Aztecs only having a five-point advantage, Saunders drained a pair of threes and an infant alley-oop dunk assisted by Byrd.

A San Diego State student holds up a sign during the Mountain West Conference game between the Aztecs and New Mexico on Friday, Feb. 16 at Viejas Arena. SDSU avenged their home loss to the Lobos from last season and remained unbeaten on Steve Fisher Court during the 2023-24 season. (Noelani Sapla)

 

Saunders spoke on those crucial shots and plays down the stretch of the game.

“(These past couple of games), I’ve been trying to have a clear head while playing and not think about the shots I’ve missed or mistakes,” Saunders said. “I try to keep level-headed and know that good things are coming.”

Byrd made plays on both sides of the ball and ended the game with six assists and four blocks. The energy brought a rocking atmosphere to Viejas and helped close the game out for the Aztecs.

Byrd discussed what his hustle and shot-blocking offered the team. 

“Everybody has a role in this team,” Byrd said. “This year, that is my role to be the energy guy and to get a second chance opportunity on the steal or other opportunities. I’m trying to fill my role to the best of my abilities.” 

Dutcher appreciated the performance of the two sophomores.

“Saunders hit critical threes for us in that stretch, and unafraid, he stepped up,” Dutcher said. “He was open, he let it go. Those were important baskets he made.”

“Byrd is getting better, he’s playing with high energy, and he blocks more shots than anyone else on the team,” Dutcher said. “He comes over and saves baskets, he flies around so Byrd’s energy is really important to what we’re doing.”

The Aztecs head back on the road for a pivotal matchup with first place on the line against the Utah State Aggies at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

About the Contributor
Noelani Sapla, Staff Photographer, '21-22 Photo Editor
Born and raised in San Diego, Noelani is a graduate student at San Diego State University working towards a masters degree in education. She joined the Daily Aztec staff as the photo editor for the 2021-2022 year, and is currently a staff photographer. She credits the Daily Aztec for the experience and opportunities to cover the NCAA tournament in Houston where the men's basketball team played in the national championship game. While having a degree in education and teaching, Noelani's dream is to become a professional sports photographer.