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