“Aztecs Basketball–End of Historical Run”
A chance to do something never done before by anyone wearing the Red & Black on Montezuma Mesa.
The opportunity to finish a college basketball season unbeaten, at (29-0) and be the #1 seed in the Eastern Regional going into the NCAA championships, gone.
The memory to wear the colors and splash the name Aztecs across Madison Square Garden, the basketball Mecca, for everyone to see, lost.
We probably won’t see it ever again…a near perfect college basketball season at San Diego State.
It should not have ended the way it did, this ugly (66-63) lost the Nevada-Las Vegas.
Maybe it was insulting, or arrogance, that led to the decision to hoist this years Mountain West championship regular season banner before the game, infront of the Running Rebels players. They did that without giving consideration there is still a MWC tournament to be played.
Gone is the (26-0) season start. Gone will be the #1-seed in one of the regionals. Gone the opportunity to accomplish a once-in a lifetime, once in a university achievement.
Coach Brian Dutcher made the comment to me just a week ago, and it came back to ring true. “The 3-point shot is the great equalizer in college basketball”. That was accompanied by his oft repeated comment “Northing surprises me in college basketball, weekend to weekend”
Both came to pass in the noise, the bedlam, infront of the show and a sold-out crowd. UNLV hit a ton of threes early. The Aztecs were miserable behind the arc. And across the nation, #1 Baylor lost at home and #2 Gonzaga was beaten too. We have now had 6-different #1-teams lose games this year.
This loss hurt so bad, not just the perfect season hopes, but the chance to maybe climb as high as number 2-in the national polls.
Maybe we should have been concerned all along, though I wondered some in private moments amidst the hoopla of win-after-win.
What would happen if SDSU could not hit three point shots, and the other guy did. Almost happened in an early season scare with San Jose State. Almost happened again in a near home loss to Utah State. Finally did happened vs UNLV.
I also asked what would happen if the big man, Yanni Wetzel, the Vanderbilt transfer, had a bad night, or got defensed out into the parking lot? Happened Saturday didn’t it.
Would this loss of Nathan Mensah, to the blood clot scare, catch up to them, when they needed someone to block shots, get rebounds, keep plays alive.
It was an odd night. An SDSU team went 8-minutes without a basket, to dig a 14-point deficit. They had come from behind before in emotional comeback wins vs Creighton, Iowa, USU and more. But not this time, because Vegas did not crumble under the intense choke-hold defense SDSU threw at them in the final ten minutes. And UNLV hit 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to maintain that breathing room lead, staving off the comeback.
State was so out of character. 2-of-12 on 3’s in the first half. 8-minutes without a basket in the first half. Turnovers. Sloppy passing. Got out rebounded for 36-minutes. Finished the night shooting just 37%. Just (8-of-27) on 3’s.
Excuse me for feeling it was an appalling loss, losing to a team that was (1-16) at Viejas Arena dating back to a long time ago. And then you had to sit there and watch UNLV go (10:45) and score just 1-basket, and parade off the floor win the win. Yes a (14-14) team should feel good about themselves and what they just did.
The stars, who triggered that great season, seemed to ge running on empty. Wetzel disappeared. Micah Flynn was just (4-13) shooting. KJ Feagin went (2-for-8). The defense was a step slow. There was no Matt Mitchell magic this night. And there were fouls and fouls thruout the night. A sloppy Saturday.
It only counts as one loss. Dutcher’s sales pitch heading into the final home game with Colorado State…”Don’t let this one loss lead you to another one”.
Of course there is a season ending road game at Nevada, and now what appears to be a much tougher MWC tourney still ahead, with a bunch of teams improving.
You wonder if SDSU has peaked its abilities, and if other teams scouting reports are catching up to them, because the road just travelled over the last couple of weeks in conference has been more challenging.
I felt a knot in my stomach, and it’s not even my Alma Mater. I had wished for all Dutcher and former coach Steve Fisher have done, how this has become a college basketball town finally, that a (29-0) season would have been an experience of a lifetime.
Shame it ended this way. Good team, good chemistry, good leadership, but on this night, not a good game.
I don’t think we will ever see this again, here, in this city, at that university.
Legacy lost on a lousy Saturday night.