SDSU Men’s basketball is finally back. The smell of popcorn, the cheers of fans, and a nearly half-full stadium were present in the first game of the year.
The last time fans were in the building, SDSU was a top 25 team in the nation and was led by, now Raptors guard, Malachi Flynn.
The Aztecs faced off against St. Katherine, an NAIA school located in San Marcos. The scrimmage was the second of two for the Aztecs, the first being a closed-door scrimmage against UCLA, who in March of this year went all the way to the Final Four.
Early in the game Senior Trey Pulliam started off hot, knocking down two mid-range jumpers working in the pick n roll with Nathan Mensah. Keshad Johnson received the first start of his career and grabbed six rebounds and scored four points in the first half.
Senior Nathan Mensah came out aggressive shooting the mid-range shot with confidence, scoring six points on 3-6 shooting. Newcomer Matt Bradley from Cal struggled to work his way in early but caught fire scoring eight points late in the first half.
SDSU continued to push the pace against a St. Katherine’s team who in the first 13 attempts scored just two field goals. At half the Aztecs lead 34-14.
Going to half with a 20 point lead the Aztecs looked to expand that lead but struggled defensively. After scoring only 14 points in the first half the Aztecs allowed 30 second-half points to a team that had struggled to put the ball in the basket for 20 minutes.
The second half was a balanced effort between Bradley and Mensah in which Bradley scored seven points, leading to a game-high of 15 and Mensah corralled every rebound in sight, putting him at a game-high of 11.
The team struggled throughout the game from beyond the arc shooting just 19% from long range. Sophomore Lamont Butler struggled from the field scoring only three points in 20+ minutes and took a hard fall late in the game.
There were positives in the 21 point victory but the Aztecs defense in the second half was lackluster and sloppy. If the Aztecs want to win the conference and compete deep into March Madness they must look at their free-throw shooting, three-point shooting, and defensive miscues
Next up is a formidable opponent in UC Riverside on Nov. 9 at Viejas Arena which, on that day, the team will raise its 2021 Mountain West Conference Champion and the 2021 Mountain West Tournament Championship banners into the rafters. SDSU has a lot to work on but it is early and with Coach Brian Dutcher at the helm, the Aztecs will work hard to progress throughout the season.
Written by: Carson Cook