San Diego State takes down Nevada but loses titanic matchup against Boise State on Saturday 67-66
The Aztecs finished the week 1-1 after taking down Nevada 88-70 on Wednesday, but narrowly missed out on a win against the league-leading Boise State Broncos. The Aztecs (15-4, 4-2 MWC) hit a hot Boise team intent on rebounding from their previous game loss against UNLV. Boise State (13-5, 4-1 MWC) is in the hunt for a share of the league title as they prepare for next Saturday’s game against conference leader Utah State. The Aztecs are struggling in the recent stretch of games. A close win against San Jose State, a blowout loss to New Mexico, a convincing win against Nevada and a backyard brawl against Boise tells anyone who is interested, that there are no clear front leaders in this conference and any victory a team can earn, will go along way towards their postseason tournament resume. The victory against Nevada (15-3, 2-2 MWC) was only the third loss of the year for Nevada. They remain a conference contender and a strong post-season tournament candidate. The Aztecs held a commanding 38-24 lead at half. The key was the rebounding as the Aztecs were completely dominating, 44-25 including 20-7 on the offensive boards. Jaedon LeDee, again led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Reese Waters continues to show his value to the team with 14 points. The sold-out crowd at Viejas Arena expect the Aztecs to win at home and they did not disappoint, as 12,414 fans left happy. Viejas continues to be one of the more difficult places for teams to play in the West along with New Mexico’s The Pit and Arizona’s McKale Arena.
Heading to Boise, the Aztecs would be facing a team that had their home winning streak snapped against UNLV, who is another surprise team in the conference. The Aztecs started slow and cold, having difficulty finding the basket, especially from three-point land. The loud crowd of 11,705 at ExtraMile Arena felt something special was in the air. LeDee struggled to find open shots and even was inconsistent from the foul line. Both team's defenses, which are ranked in the top 25 in the country, were on point and provided difficulty for either team to gain offensive momentum. Early on, Boise’s bench players provided much-needed minutes as they managed the tempo better than the Aztecs. The Aztecs warmed up shooting, winding up 11/14 at the half, but 1/8 from three. On the positive side, they had 18 points in the paint compared to 12 for Boise State. LeDee would lead the team with 8 points. For the Broncos, they had a breakout game from O’Mar Stanley who finished the half with 10 points. He would finish the game with 17 points, 7 rebounds and an amazing 3/3 from beyond the arc. His ability to stretch the defense allowed Broncos Tyson Degenhart and Chibuzo Agbo access in the paint. The teams continued to mirror each other with streaks and tenacious defense, similar to the start and stop fits of the first half. After a slow second-half start, the offenses started to gain traction as the Aztecs were able to score in the paint, from the bench and on fast breaks. During a stretch late in the second half, LeDee attempted to bring the Aztecs back by himself. This led to some frustration sequences which saw him lose the ball in a possession, a charging foul, a blocked shot and a missed turnaround. He seemed to feel he needed to carry the team as there were open outlets. The Aztecs did manage to take the lead halfway through the second half, but quickly relinquished it back to the Broncos. With less than a minute left, the Aztecs found themselves down 8, but a couple of three’s and poor court management by the Broncos found the Aztecs trailing by four. A last second three by Lamont Butler made the final score 67-66. In addition to LeDee’s 13 points, Reese Waters added ten, Butler 9 more and off the bench, Darrion Trammell added 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The MWC continues to impress
With this quad 1 win, Boise State now has four on the year and looks to be all but a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament. It appears that the MWC tournament will merely be used for seeding for the NCAA’s. Saturday’s game also saw 16th ranked Utah State run to 17-2 with a 83-62 win over Fresno State and New Mexico with a 85-66 win over Air Force. Nevada plays Wyoming in a later game. Top to bottom, the league is one of the better ones in the country. They look to have more than last year’s four teams in the tournament. Even at the bottom, there’s some reason for optimism. San Jose State, 1-4 in the conference, has lost three games by a single possession. UNLV has been surging despite recent losses to Colorado State, Utah State and San Diego State. Nevada, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and San Diego State all look to be the most legitimate contenders. As they continue to cannibalize each other, one will probably be eliminated. Colorado State will be coming off of a two-game losing streak as they head to Nevada and a home contest on January 30 against the Aztecs. New Mexico looks hot, only having lost against UNLV and giving Utah State their only conference loss. These wins are all quad 1 victories and look well for the top teams. As long as teams stay injury-free, the MWC tournament should be an extremely entertaining event starting Wednesday March 13 and finishing with the championship on Saturday March 16.