Both teams came out of the gate with a sense of urgency in order to keep their season alive. The Aztecs would open up a comfortable lead until the Broncos responded with 7-0 run to tie the game at 15 with 11:35 in the first half.
The Broncos would open up their largest lead of the first half as they led 32-26 with 4:52 remaining. The Aztecs went on a 13-2 run and led 42-37 at halftime. Malik Pope led all scorers with 11 points and 7 rebounds at the break.
The Aztecs continued their success on the offensive end in the first five minutes, moving the ball inside-out against the Broncos’ 2-3 zone defense. The Aztecs opened up the lead in the second half, which was spearheaded with several baskets by Max Hoetzel and Malik Pope down the stretch.
The Aztecs were led by Pope (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Hoetzel (21 points, 5-for-6 from 3-pointers). Overall, the Aztecs shot a solid 54.7% (29-53) from the field and an excellent 64.3% (9-14) from the three-point line. The Aztecs received 34 points from their bench and had ten players score at least one basket.
Some could argue that this was the Aztecs best all around victory this season against a respectable opponent. The Aztecs only faced the Broncos once this season, and fell 78-66 in Boise. However, the Aztecs were short handed without Pope and looked like a completely different team in the second matchup. This is the Aztecs largest margin of victory since they defeated Utah State 74-55 back on January 14th at home.
A scary moment took place late when Pope went down on the floor. After being looked at by the trainers, he walked gingerly into the locker room. They described it as a hyperextension of the left knee and he would not return to the game. Pope appeared with ice wrapped around his knee on the bench. In the post game interview, Pope said, “I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to play [for tomorrow]”. Only the Aztecs can hope that his word is true.
SDSU: The Aztecs move on to the semifinals and will face Colorado State tomorrow. The Rams have beat the Aztecs twice this season on buzzer-beaters.
BSU: The Broncos season is officially over, but the team will likely be invited to the NIT.