Aztecs Defeated by Utah State in Mountain West Championship, Must Rebound

For the second year in a row, the Aztecs were defeated by Utah State University in the Mountain West Basketball Championship.

“That’s March Madness basketball. It just started in the conference tournament,” Head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We will learn from it and we will be ready when we see who we play in 10 days.”

Aggies’ Sam Merrill made a challenging game-winning three pointer over SDSU’s KJ Feagin with 2.5 seconds left on the game clock.

“[I] couldn’t have played better defense,” Senior KJ Feagin said.

Merrill finished with 27 points and was named MVP for the second straight year.

With the championship win, Utah State gets the Mountain West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Aztecs led by 16 points in the first half and appeared to be in firm control of the game. The Aggies didn’t make a field goal from 15:06 remaining to 2:11 remaining in the first half.

In the Aztecs first two games of the 2020 Air Force Reserve Mountain West Basketball Championships, they struggled against Air Force and Boise State in the first halves before pulling away in the second half.

It was the opposite on Saturday, the Aztecs were cold in the closing stages of the first half and it stayed true for the entire game.

SDSU made 34% of their field goals for the game, which included only making 12% of their three pointers in the second half.

The Aztecs had a strong performance from Yanni Wetzell, he finished with a 12 point and 13 rebound double-double.

“I don’t know if they made a whole lot of adjustments. It was just a matter of me putting two halves together,” Wetzell said. “I think I performed better in the first half, and that’s something I’m going to take and try and improve on, and promise you I’m going to put two halves together once that Tournament comes.”

Malachi Flynn added 16 points and Feagin added 11. However Wetzell, Feagin, and Flynn combined to shoot 14-for-43.

What truly hurt the Aztecs was Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel combining for only four points.

“You know, Jordan, they stayed out on Jordan. He couldn’t find any opportunities,” Dutcher said. “Matt didn’t have a great game today Obviously I think he’d be the first to say that. I don’t know what he was from the field, 1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from three.”

The Aztecs admitted this loss hurt and left them feeling deflated after the game.

“I think I speak for everybody when I feel like that shot and us taking this loss just took all the life out of us today,” Feagin said. “I wanted to cut down nets. We all wanted to cut down nets.”

With the loss, the Aztecs will likely drop from a No. 1 seed to No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

With the probable change in seeding, the Aztecs would stay in the West instead fo traveling to the East.

“I want to be a 1 seed, so I want to be a 1 seed. I want to be a 1 seed in the west,” Dutcher said. “So we’ll see what happens. I mean, I think we’re good enough.

They potentially will have 13 days before their next game.

“I don’t think it’s that hard to sit on a loss. It’s hard losing the conference championship in the last two seconds of the game,” Dutcher said.

The important games haven’t started yet, but if the Aztecs lose in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament, it will feel like this historic season was all for naught.

The Aztecs must rebound and take their winning-ways to the tournament.

If Flynn, Feagin, Mitchell and Wetzell show up in the same game, SDSU can beat anyone.

Written by: Dan Farr

It All Went Right For The Aztecs On Senior Night

San Diego State women’s basketball team honored Taylor Kalmer, Zayn Dornstauder, Monique Terry and Baylee Vanderdoes before Thursday’s game, as it was their final time playing in Viejas arena.

“Baylee [Vanderdoes] and Monique [Terry] have been with me all four years and I’m amazed with their growth on and off the court. Both of their roles transitioned into starters. I’m proud of the effort they put in,” Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said.

“Zayn [Dornstauder] has been here two years and I don’t know that we’ve had a dominant post player since I’ve been here and she’s been able to really work on the offensive end. She’s so skilled so she’ll be missed. TK [Taylor Kalmer] is so competitive and has such a good work ethic. These four seniors have all helped changed our culture.”

Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson

The Aztecs won their home finale and final regular season game 81-68 against Nevada. Hot shooting throughout the entire game left little in doubt as the Aztecs closed out their season. 

SDSU made 49% of their shots, which included shooting 50% from downtown. The team also had four players who scored in double-digits and two players who scored eight points.

“We need a third scorer,” Terry-Hutson said, “Sophia [Ramos] and TK [Kalmer] take up so much of the offensive load it’s nice to see Zayn [Dornstauder] and Tea [Adams] takeover some nights.”

Their offense wasn’t the only part of their game that clicked. After getting on track, the Aztecs defense played with grit and held the Wolfpack to 34.9% shooting.

“It’s senior night so give everything you have so I think that’s the mentality too,” Vanderdoes said, “I always give it my all, but it was just different tonight.”

The Aztecs started the game down 12-4, but after a few adjustments they took a 42-28 halftime lead.  Kalmer ended the first half with 15 points and made her first eight shots.

Jokingly, Kalmer said she couldn’t recall making eight shots in a row. “I don’t know, maybe in H-O-R-S-E or something.” She finished with 20 points and extended her streak of scoring at least 10 points per game to 24.

As a team, the Aztecs shot 55% from the field and 83% from three in the first two quarters. A 15-0 run out of halftime gave them a 24 point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third.

“We were able to build a lead and give ourself a cushion and we see once we do that we have a great shot at beating some good teams,” Kalmer said.

SDSU earned their ninth win in conference play and it’s the most they’ve had since the 2014-15 season. The Aztecs also finished 9-8 at Viejas this season, but it still hasn’t sunk in that it was their final home game, especially for the seniors.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” Vanderdoes said, “I feel like I’m just gonna put my shoes back on and practice here tomorrow.”

It was a close knit group who cared for each other tremendously this season. The over 1,000 fans in attendance could see how locked in the Aztecs were tonight, on both sides of the ball.

The team wanted to send their four seniors out with cheerful memories of Viejas arena.

“My made of honor will probably be Monique [Terry],” Vanderdoes said, “Zayn [Dornstauder] and I got really close and TK [Kalmer] makes be better. She demands that of everyone on the team and we all meshed really well together and we all love each other.”

SDSU will be the No. 6 seed and face No. 11 Utah State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament, which starts March 1 in Las Vegas.

“In February I think we won six out of the last nine and two of those losses were in the single digits,” Terry-Hutson said, “I think we’re playing good basketball right now so I’m excited to see what we travel with to Vegas.”

Written by: Daniel Farr

Men’s Basketball Wins Home Finale

On Tuesday, February 25, San Diego State played their final home game of the season and honored three players. As part of senior night KJ Feagin, Nolan Narain, and Yanni Wetzell were celebrated before tipoff against Colorado State.

“We didn’t want another one, [loss] especially on senior night.” Junior Matt Mitchell said, “We wanted to get our seniors out with a win.”

The Aztecs beat the Rams 66-60 in their home finale to improve to 27-1. The team wanted to send their seniors out on the right note, but cold shooting nearly doomed the Aztecs. This was their second straight game of making less than 40% of their shots from the field.

“When Malachi [Flynn] is 0-for-6 from the field and he’s your best player it’s going to be a struggle,” Head coach Brian Dutcher said, “The thing I like about our team is, we can still win when we don’t shoot the ball well because our defense is so good.”

San Diego state shot 35% for the game and 33% from three point land. Strong defense, especially in the second half propelled the Aztecs to their 27th victory on the season.

“We didn’t want to lose two in a row,” Junior Malachi Flynn said. “We buckled down on the defensive end and people made shots.”

With 57 seconds left, Rams’ guard Isaiah Stevens made two free throws, which cut the Aztecs’ lead to just two. After a stop by the Aztecs, and a stop by the Rams, a jump ball was called and possession was awarded to the Aztecs. 

CSU was forced to intentionally foul Mitchell, who made two free throws to ice the game and begin a new winning streak for the Aztecs. He finished with 15 points and the Aztecs made 17-of-20 free throws on Tuesday night.

SDSU’s defense kept them in the game, as the Rams only made 28% of their second half shots and went 1-for-10 from the three point line. In the first half, the Rams shot 50% but still only led 36-34 entering the second half.

Jordan Schakel started off the second half with a steal and a lay up, then he hit a three pointer to give the Aztecs a 57-56 lead with just over four minutes remaining. He finished with 11 points and four rebounds.

Flynn’s first field goal didn’t come until five minutes into the second half, however he made a big time three pointer with three minutes remaining to extend the lead 62-56. Flynn ended the game with 17 points.

 The Aztecs bench was outscored by 10 points after 20 minutes and they allowed 14 points inside the paint during the half. SDSU allowed 24 points in the paint for the game, but their bench ended up outscoring the Rams by three.

Mitchell scored 13 points in the first half, but his teammates struggled from the field during the half. SDSU made 35.7% of their first half shots and went 6-for-17 from three point land. Flynn was 0-for-6 in the first half and 0-for-4 from deep in the half. He finished the game 4-for-14. 

The Aztecs will play at Nevada on Saturday before embarking on the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas. 

Written by: Daniel Farr

SDSU Baseball Honors “Mr. Padre”

Eight months ago, I wrote a blog about the late Tony Gwynn and what he meant to San Diego. 

Whatever people called him – Mr. Padre, Aztec For Life, Hall of Famer, Coach, or Dad – Gwynn cared about what he did and who he interacted with.   

The San Diego State baseball program honored their late head coach with a baseball tournament in his name back in 2015 and this past weekend, they hosted their fifth annual Tony Gwynn Legacy.

Head coach Mark Martinez said the tournament gives programs across the United States the opportunity to come to “America’s Finest City” and learn about Coach Gwynn.

“We celebrate Tony’s legacy and this is a focal point for this weekend, for great programs throughout the country to play in San Diego,” Martinez said in a press conference Friday. “Our baseball program celebrates Tony’s legacy every single day. It’s a turbo charge to what we do every day with Tony.”

On Sunday, the Aztecs started strong with senior outfielder Mike Jarvis hitting his second home run to left field to start SDSU’s offense in the first inning. It was the San Diego native’s second leadoff home run this season.

After a couple of two-RBI singles in the third and fourth inning, the Aztecs would go on to lose, 11-5 against the Trojans on the final day of the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament.

The Trojans responded in the top of the fifth when USC junior outfielder Ben Ramirez, who played with juniors Casey Schmitt and Brian Leonhardt at Eastlake High School in San Diego, hit a bases-clearing triple to the left field corner to cap off a five-run inning. 

Overall, the Aztecs had four errors defensively and 10 of the 11 runs were unearned for Aztec pitching. 

Head coach Mark Martinez said the team did not make the right choices but realizes they can regroup.

“We made some bad decisions defensively,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing for me is we have to manage success and manage adversity and hard times.”

Despite defensive miscues, sophomore pitcher Aaron Eden started and went 4 and two-thirds innings. He cruised through the first four innings, allowing just a hit and a walk.

“(I was) getting ahead, using my fastball to my advantage,” Eden said. “That’s my best pitch so that helped me.”

Although SDSU lost this game, they won twice in this weekend’s Tony Gwynn Legacy.

It is the third consecutive year SDSU has won at least two games during the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament.

SDSU defeated Iowa 4-1 on Friday and beat Nebraska on Saturday 4-2.

Leonhardt, who also pitched an inning against USC, said it was a good weekend, but a better week with SDSU’s midweek victory over Cal State Fullerton.

“We won the weekend,” Leonhardt said. “If someone told us going into the weekend, ‘you’re going to win two of three,’ we are going to look back on we won two out of three and three out of four.”  

Leonhardt said exposing Gwynn’s legacy to teams across the country is positive and ensures that SDSU will continue to promote who Tony Gwynn was – a hard worker – even after he passed away.

“I believe if he was here, he’d be proud of us,” Leonhardt said. “Although we had a tough loss, we battled hard to get two gritty wins Friday and Saturday. It’s great to come out and play for him every day.”

The Aztecs hit the road Tuesday to UC Irvine before coming home to play the 2018 National Champions, Oregon State Beavers.

Written by: Breven Honda