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Aztecs hold off spirited Spartans upset bid

San Diego State continued their winning ways, reeling out a close 81-78 win against an undersized San Jose State squad.

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Aztecs inside game powers its way to an 81-78 victory over upset-minded San Jose State

San Diego State (14-2, 3-0 MWC) visited the friendly confines of the Provident Credit Union Event Center on the San Jose State campus on Tuesday night fresh from their no. 19 National ranking. Playing good, solid and fundamentally sound basketball, they brought a six-game winning streak against the last-place Spartan squad. With the majority of the fans yelling on the Aztecs, they showed why they are a serious team on a mission of conference dominance. The Spartans under third-year coach Tim Miles, while a good and getting better team, had no answer for Aztec forward and lead runner conference MVP Jaedon LeDee. LeDee had 31 points and ten rebounds as he consistently dominated the offensive end of the court for the Aztecs. His physicality and Adonis-like chiseled physique forced the Spartans to use several players whose sole intention was to foul him. LeDee lived at the foul line, going 14/19. Three Spartan defenders accounted for 12 personal fouls trying to provide some level of defense against LeDee. Four Aztecs scored in double figures. In addition to LeDee, Micah Parrish had 13 points, Lamont Butler added 16 more and Jay Pal, wearing a face-protecting clear mask added ten more and two blocks, the last of which was a potential game-saver as he blocked the Spartan's Tre Anderson’s layup with three second left. Pal had missed his defensive assignment and Anderson broke free for what appeared Tokir a game-tying layup. Pal quickly moved and swatted the ball away from behind. Lamont Butler grabbed the rebound and made one of two free throws from the subsequent foul. Game, set and match to what was a very entertaining game. This writer is based out of the Houston area and with a 10:00 central starting time, it was going to be a late one, infringing on beauty sleep, but the game was full of thrills and excitement and was close throughout most of the late night. The Spartans had four starters finish in double figures. Tibet Gorener had 15, Trey Anderson had 11, MJ Amey Jr., fresh off a 30 point game against Boise State, finished with 20 and team leader Alvaro Cardenas led the way with 21. Center Adrame Dionge finished with two points.

First half back and forth

The Aztecs and Spartans entertained the crowd with an entertaining game. The game featured 15 lead changes as well as 14 ties. Most people didn’t think the Spartans could hang with the Aztecs, but Coach Tim Miles and staff had the team prepared to play.

“I thought our guys followed the game plan, making adjustments when we needed to adjust, playing different lineups and they did it with eagerness and aggression,” said Miles after the game. Aztec coach Brian Dutcher was quoted to say, “As crazy as it may sound, this is exactly how I thought the game would go. They’re dynamic offensively. Miles has got a good team this year. They have just not won the close games.”

The two teams traded momentum with Cardenas and Anderson keeping the Spartans in the game, while LeDee was doing his best to dominate. It was obvious there was a mismatch inside and the Aztecs meant to exploit it. Quiet in the first half was Spartan MJ Amey, Jr. who only managed five points. When the buzzer sounded, the Aztecs lead 41-40 at the half. The Aztecs continued to press and move the ball inside where they controlled the game. They outrebounded the Spartans 37-28 and scored 38 in the paint points compared to only 24 for the Spartans.

Winning the close ones

Both teams continued to play their brand of ball in the second half. Momentum moved back and forth. Spartan Tibet Gorener got hot with three 3’s putting the Spartans out front by three. But the Aztecs continued to pound the ball to LeDee. His effectiveness led to Spartan center Adrama Diongue to foul out with about 9 minutes left in the game. The final two minutes were quite exciting. Looking to tie the game, Aztec guard Lamont Butler knocked the ball off of Amey and out of bounds to the Aztecs, but the Spartan's defense was able to hold and got the ball with less than 15 seconds left. Cardenas led the Spartans down and had a pass to an open Anderson, who had his shot swatted away by Pal.

The Aztecs have the rest of the week off until they travel to New Mexico on Saturday for a game broadcast on CBS. Tuesday night had several other games with surprising results. Boise State took down No. 17 ranked Colorado State 65-58 for their second loss in a row. UNLV beat New Mexico 83-73. Utah State continues its dominance with an 83-59 win over visiting Wyoming and Nevada took care of business against Air Force, 67-54. The conference leaderboard is bound to change more as the season progresses. The teams are showing quality even in the middle levels. Only Fresno State and Air Force look to be completely out. San Jose, despite losing three in a row, has shown they can take leads and play with the big boys. currently, Utah State and San Diego State are the top two, with Nevada and Boise State at three and four. This Friday, Boise State travels to Nevada which looks to be a great contest and Saturday has both the Aztecs and Lobos and UNLV hosting Utah State. Some titanic matchups for a conference that has many experts' attention.