Aztecs escape with victory over Colorado State on Senior Night


Kareem Jones

Junior guard Jordan Schakel reacts after a play during the Aztecs’ 66-60 win over Colorado State on Feb. 25 at Viejas Arena.

by Aaron Tolentino, Sports Editor

Here’s a stat that may not be pleasing to Aztecs fans.

San Diego State is 9-61 in its last 70 games when trailing with five minutes left to play.

On Tuesday, the team was down 56-54 with five minutes left on the clock.

Fortunately for the seniors and their families who would’ve loved to see a victory for the home team’s final game of the season, they got it.

Make that 10-61 in those types of games, including SDSU’s 66-60 victory over the Rams on Feb. 25 at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs were able to pick up their defense in the second half. The Rams shot 50% from the field in the first half but were only able to shoot 28% after intermission.

“I’ve said a thousand times. Winning a college basketball game is hard,” Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, where you’re playing. It’s hard to win a game, and Colorado State came in here with 19 wins and playing really good basketball. They gave us everything we want, and we found a way (to win) like we did against Vegas without getting a win to guard at a really elite level in the second half.”

Here are three observations from the Aztecs’ win in the final home game of the season.

1. Jordan Schakel’s 11 points comes in clutch for SDSU

With KJ Feagin and Malachi Flynn combining for 23 points on 6-of-24 (25%) shooting, somebody had to step up in the backcourt for the Aztecs.

The other guard Jordan Schakel did, coming off the bench as senior forward Nolan Narain started in his place.

SDSU, who found itself trailing most of the way, needed every one of his 11 points. Colorado State led for 24:56 while the home team led for 11:30.

Schakel scored all of his 11 points in the second half, shooting 4-of-11 overall and 2-of-6 from 3-point range.

Since scoring only six points at home against Utah State 24 days ago, Schakel has quietly been on an offensive tear of his own in the last five games – totals of 18, 11, 12, 10 and 11 points.

He has averaged 12.4 points during that span, which is above his season average of 10.1 points per game.

“(Schakel) made some really important ones today,” Dutcher said. “I know one thing: people don’t want to leave Jordan Schakel open from three because he gets it up in a hurry, and he makes a high percentage.”

2. Nolan Narain gets the start on Senior Night, nails 3-pointer seconds into game

Since last season when then-senior Michael Sohikish, who had zero career starts prior, got the start against Fresno State on March 6.

Dutcher continued the tradition of starting all his seniors on Senior Night by inserting forward Nolan Narain into the first five.

Narain, who hasn’t started a game since the 2017-18 season, didn’t seem content to only start ceremoniously on Tuesday night.

The Ontario, Canada native looked to contribute on the court right away – with the help of a play design by Dutcher to begin the game.

Ten seconds after the ball was tipped off, Narain fired away from the top of the key and got the friendly roll to go in.

“That was fun to see,” Flynn said. “We didn’t know he was going to do that. He just came out and shot it. We’re all happy for him, so that was a good moment.”

Narain tied his season-high three points on that one basket.

The same Narain who did not see any game action until the 11th game of the season against NAIA San Diego Christian.

“Nolan, we’re going to pick and pop you and if you’re open and you feel like you want to take it, take it,” Dutcher said. “So he popped and he took it, and it went around the rim 72 times, took seven minutes off the clock and finally went in. That was a great way to start the game with Nolan making a three.”

3. For the second consecutive game, SDSU trails heading into the locker room

That’s only the fifth time the Aztecs trailed heading into halftime all season – trailing 36-34 to the Rams.

The first half numbers are comparable to last game just three days earlier when the Aztecs suffered its first lost loss of the year and trailed by 12 at the half.

SDSU’s numbers Saturday against UNLV: 8-of-24 (33%) field goals and 2-of-12 (17%) from 3-point range.

UNLV’s first half numbers: 15-of-26 (58%) field goals and 6-of-13 (46%) from downtown.

First half of Tuesday night …

SDSU: 10-of-28 (35%) field goals and 6-of-17 (35%) from distance.

Colorado State: 14-of-28 (50%) field goals and 4-of-10 (40%) from distance.

Take away Mitchell’s efficient first half of 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting (3-of-5 3-pointers), the rest of the Aztecs struggled to find offensive rhythm. Flynn had two points and went 0-of-6 from the field.

“You sit there frustrated (Rams’ three-pointers) are going in,” Dutcher said. “You’re not trying to prevent those guys from getting threes, you’re contesting. You don’t want to give them wide open ones, but to their credit, they stepped up and made really important shots in the first half.”

The Aztecs play their last regular season game at Nevada on Feb. 29 and look to finish 28-1 before the conference tournament on March 5.