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

Bad Beats: Aztecs draw dead down the stretch in Mountain West Final

Six-plus minutes of cold shooting late in the game, while New Mexico converted second chance scores, sealed SDSU’s fate
Chinedu Nwoffiah
New Mexico forward JT Toppin (15) grabs a rebound over San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee (13) in the 2024 Mountain West Championship Final on Saturday, March 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Toppin scored nine of his 13 points and grabbed six of his 11 rebounds in the game during the second half.

LAS VEGAS — One of the most consistent indicators of success for the San Diego State men’s basketball team had been their 22-1 record when holding a lead when the chips are down with five minutes remaining.

The Aztecs (24-10) led by two at that mark in the Mountain West Championship Final, but were outscored 11-2 the rest of the way in the 68-61 loss to the New Mexico Lobos (25-9) at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.

It was a painful time for SDSU to lose their second with a lead that late in a game this season and for just the 12th time under head coach Brian Dutcher.

“It was second chance opportunities down the stretch that won the game, whether it was a missed free-throw (or) a put-back opportunity,” Dutcher said. “We caused initial misses, but we didn’t finish it with rebounds, and that’s the difference in the game.”

Micah Parrish knocked down a 3-pointer with 7:08 remaining, pushing the Aztecs lead out to its largest at 57-53. Then the wheels fell off, as the Scarlet and Black missed their next 10 shots and made just 1-of-14 to close the game.

The next two possessions after the 3 saw SDSU get three cracks to score on offensive rebounds to no avail. Then a one and done, followed by back-to-back turnovers set the stage for the Lobos to take the lead for good with forward JT Toppin’s putback at 2:30 to make it 61-59.

Then four more misses, before Jaedon LeDee finally broke the spell by cleaning up a missed trey, but by then New Mexico had a 67-61 lead with 23 seconds remaining.

“I feel like they were getting the ball on the rim, and they were able to get some good shots from (Jaelen) House and (Jamal) Mashburn (Jr.), and they were getting offensive rebounds,” Lamont Butler said. “It was really hard to pressure them because of how quick they are and how fast they are.”

The New Mexico guards’ speed drew the Aztecs’ defensive help man towards the action when the Lobos drove the lane, leaving pockets where Toppin was able to tuck in and follow up for second chance points.

The Mountain West Co-Freshman of the Year was the UNM difference maker down the stretch, scoring nine of his 13 points and grabbing six rebounds (four on offense) of 11 overall after the Parrish triple.

Six of Toppin’s nine points in the final seven minutes came on put-backs — New Mexico had an 18-6 edge in second chance points for the game.

After righting the ship in the first two games of the tournament, SDSU’s stumbles down the stretch in the title game reminded of similar issues that the team dealt with in the majority of its regular season conference road games.

This weekend the Aztecs showed they can close out against desperate competition despite ultimately folding in Las Vegas.

Come the NCAA Tournament, SDSU knows that they’ll have to hold ’em.

About the Contributors
Eric Evelhoch
Eric Evelhoch, '23-24 Sports Editor
Eric Evelhoch (he/him/his) is a senior media studies major who was born outside of Detroit, Michigan, and lived in Ventura County, California, for a decade-plus. He is a returning college student and transfer from Santa Barbara City College, where he served as Sports Editor for The Channels. Evelhoch is also a Sports Director for KCR College Radio, where he restarted play-by-play coverage post-pandemic. Currently, he serves as the play-by-play broadcaster for the SDSU ACHA DI hockey team and has filled in on the call for Aztecs sports on the Mountain West Network. His prior freelance experience includes print, digital, online video and audio-only, and broadcast radio formats covering football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and volleyball.
Chinedu Nwoffiah, Photographer
Chinedu Nwoffiah (he/him/his) is a fourth-year Communication major specializing in Digital & Social Media Studies. He has always had a passion for sports and storytelling and has been able to enhance his skills throughout his time at The Daily Aztec. Since joining in 2023, he has covered nearly every sport through photography and contributed as a writer, broadcaster, and multimedia specialist for men’s basketball.