Aztecs bench shows depth contributing 33 points in a strong showing against UNLV
The Aztecs may start five players in basketball, but they have been gifted much talent and depth coming off the bench. The reserves scored 33 points against the Rebels, paced by Adam Seiko with eighteen points, all on 3-pointers. The starters were led by Matt Bradley with seventeen points, Keshad Johnson added fourteen more and Nathan Mensah had lucky eleven in both points and rebounds. UNLV was paced by guard EJ Harkless who led all scorers with 24 points before fouling out. He was supported by Keshan Gilbert with nineteen points and David Muoka with twelve. A packed house of 12,414 fans saw the Aztecs jump out to a quick lead that they would not relinquish. The Aztecs now stand at 20-5 on the year, 11-2 in conference play. This was the Aztecs third straight win and seven in their last eight. UNLV meanwhile drops to 16-9 and 5-8 in conference play. The Aztecs led by as many as 23 in outpacing the Rebels. During the first half, the Aztecs showered three’s and dunks on top of the Rebels, which led to a 14-0 run. The Aztecs owned most of the statistical battles as well. They were blazing from the field with 51% shooting. They also were 12/28 from beyond the arc, while holding UNLV to 6/21. An area of continued concern is at the free throw line. The Aztecs were guilty of 23 fouls to UNLV’s 17. The Aztecs were 8/12 from the charity stripe, a poor 66% showing. The Rebels went to the line 26 times, converting on 21 of them for an 81% clip. SDSU won the rebounding battle 42-23 as well as with assists with 23 and adding five blocks. It was a very efficient total team effort, against a UNLV team, which is sitting outside the top spots in the conference. On a night that Lamont Butler was quiet, the bench contributed significant playing time and points. The depth of the bench will be an asset for the Aztecs as they approach the MWC tournament and the expected NCAA tournament berth.
As previously mentioned, The Aztecs continue to develop their support players. Seiko, Bradley, Johnson, Mensah, Bradley and Jaedon Ledee are gelling together and providing a talented and imposing cast of players that other teams will need to continue to find ways to compete against. The Aztecs are on the road for three of their last four games, ending with games at New Mexico and Boise State. A conference championship could well be on the line with those games nearing. A 23-6 record going to tournament time is not unrealistic. Add three more wins and the Aztecs could be a 26-7 team and looking at a potential 4 or 5 spot in the NCAA tournament. The conference is looking like a solid four teams should make the tournament with Nevada, Boise State, and either New Mexico or Utah State. One cannot count out the possibility of a dark horse upset that could upset the proverbial apple cart. If UNLV can find some steady support, they have the talent and size to go deep in the Mountain West Tournament. New Mexico has been on a slide of late, but is more than capable of running a string of victories. And in what has been a success of a year for coach Tim Miles, San Jose State could find a way to get hot and cause a few upsets. They need to establish consistency and avoid the long scoreless droughts they’ve been prone to have. Expect a few more good games before the season ends. UNLV is at home against San Jose on Tuesday and then travels to Boise State on February 19. Nevada has a week off before they play at Utah State, host San Jose and then finish off the year on the road at Fresno and Wyoming. Their schedule looks very favorable and they could easily wind up the year 24-6 and 14-3 in conference play. They could very well be tied with the Aztecs, having split their season series by almost identical scores. The Mountain West is a deeper conference this year, buoyed by improved lower-tier teams and a strong core of 5 conference leaders. What lies in store for SDSU? Possibly news about a Pac-12 invite being offered soon. Business first as the Wolfpack are barking up the Aztecs tree. Can’t wait for tournament time. It looks to be exciting.