Not even the loss of Billy White could stop the Aztecs tonight at Viejas Arena as the San Diego State Aztecs upset the No.15/14 New Mexico Lobos. The Lobos, who started the season 12-0, have lost 2 out of their last 4 and are suddenly struggling at 14-2.
The game was shaping up early as a candidate for conference game of the year as the Aztecs and Lobos exchanged shots early and often in the first half. The Lobos were sinking 3s early and often and finished the half 6-11 from beyond the arc and 41.4% from the field. The Aztecs countered with a strong presence in the paint and some timely shooting from 3 range. The Aztecs finished the half shooting 5-12 from 3 and 50% from the field.
Aztec Junior and preseason All-MWC forward Billy White came down awkwardly on his ankle late in the first half and remained out for the rest of the game. He came back out at the end of the first half with crutches and his ankle in ice and a walking cast. It is unknown how long he will be out but there was a lot of initial swelling and will be reevaluated tomorrow. Billy was 4-5 from the field for 8 points before he left the game. Roman Martinez nailed a 3 at the buzzer to make the score 38-36 Aztecs at half.
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Malcom Thomas led the charge as the Aztecs started to pull away with around 12:30 left in the game. Thomas finished the game with 18 points and 15 rebounds and the Lobos went ice cold shooting 2-10 from beyond and arc and only 28.6% from the field. The Lobos were able to keep the game withing striking distance until the Aztecs went ahead by 10 with 3:30 left in the game and never looked back.
There was some questionable scoring on both sides of the ball, but I think it can be agreed that the officials were horribly inconsistent and made some terrible calls on both teams. As a result, both teams had players in serious foul trouble for a large part of the game.
New Mexico started the game in a 2-3 zone which has given the Aztecs trouble this season but after San Diego State shot 50% from the field in the first half New Mexico was forced to switch to a man defense. Once the Lobos went to man, the Aztecs were able to out-muscle the Lobos inside and SDSU won the rebound battle 42-33. Both teams limited their turnovers with 14 for New Mexico and 12 for SDSU, but one key difference was Free Throw % where both teams shot 61.5% from the charity stripe. The Aztecs struggles at the line this season are documented but this was a surprising lack of disclipline from a New Mexico team which already has multiple road wins against quality opponents.
Dairese Gary led New Mexico with 15 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. The Lobos had 3 other players in double figures. Roman Martinez had 12 points to go with 3 rebounds, Darrington Hobson also had 12 points to go with 9 rebounds and 3 assists, and Phillip McDonald rounded it out with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
Malcom Thomas was the latest Aztec to lead the team with 18 points and 15 rebounds. DJ Gay was the only other Aztec in double figures with 12 points and 5 assists. The Aztecs finished with a season high 17 assists as a team which shows they are started to gel together and play as a team while limited turnovers. If they are able to keep that up they will be really hard to beat.