No. 20 San Diego State doesn’t feel as if it has shown its best hand at the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.
The top-seeded Aztecs will get another chance to show they belong in the national conversation when they meet third-seeded Utah State in the championship game on Saturday.
The Aztecs (26-6) opened the tournament with a 64-61 win against eighth-seeded Colorado State on Thursday. San Diego State then reached the tournament final for the 13th time in the past 15 seasons, including all six under coach Brian Dutcher, with a 64-49 win against fifth-seeded San Jose State on Friday night.
The Aztecs shot below 41 percent from the field in both victories.
“I told the guys after the (semifinal) game, ‘If it wasn’t your night tonight, don’t worry about it,” Dutcher said. “Don’t get frustrated because (Saturday) is another game, and it might be your night, so put your frustration behind and your individual performance, embrace the victory and then get yourself motivated to play (Saturday).”
One of the positives from the latest win was the play of guard Darrion Trammell, who went scoreless against Colorado State but bounced back with 15 points against the Spartans.
“He didn’t score a point yesterday, and it looked like he was trying to establish himself, so we let him play with a lot of offensive freedom, and he had a lot of success,” Dutcher said.
Keshad Johnson is also coming off his highest-scoring game since late January, as he matched Trammell with 15 points vs. San Jose State.
Others will need to step up their game for the Aztecs they hope handle Utah State.
Matt Bradley, the lone San Diego State player who averages double figures in scoring (12.8 points per game), had eight points against San Jose State on 3-for-10 shooting.
Lamont Butler, who scored 16 points in the win against the Rams, finished with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting from the floor against San Jose State.
“My job as a coach is to get them out of that frustration,” Dutcher said. “Get them re-engaged and tell them they could have a magical day the next day.”
The Aztecs won both meetings against Utah State this season.
Adam Seiko made seven consecutive 3-pointers to start the game for San Diego State in an 85-75 home win over the Aggies on Jan. 25.
The Aggies kept Seiko scoreless in the rematch on Feb. 8 in Logan, Utah, but Jaedon LeDee produced 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and fellow reserve Micah Parrish had 12 points in San Diego State’s 63-61 win.
Getting a rematch with the Aztecs in the championship game is just what Utah State envisioned months ago.
“It’s been a goal … since we started in the summer,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said of competing for a tournament championship “Certainly we have the opportunity to do that (Saturday) against a great San Diego State team. They’re just dynamite, but I think it says a lot about our league. We have great teams in this league, and they need to be celebrated, and we think we have one of them, too.”
–Field Level Media