No. 25 San Diego State hopes last week’s players-only meeting continues to pay dividends in Wednesday night’s Mountain West Conference game against host Utah State in Logan, Utah.
The Aztecs (18-5, 9-2 MWC) dropped three spots in the poll this week after losing at Nevada on Jan. 31. The players met the next day and aired their feelings, then posted one of their most impressive wins of the season in Friday’s 72-52 blowout of visiting Boise State.
“We all were truthful with ourselves,” center Nathan Mensah said. “What we can do to bring the team up to the standards that San Diego State is known for.”
Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said it’s important for the players to take ownership of the direction of their season.
“Player-driven teams are always better than coach-driven teams,” he said. “I told them after the game, ‘You’ll make out of the season whatever you want to make out of it. We’re here to facilitate that, to make it what you want it to be.'”
Mensah scored 17 points against Boise State, more than double his season average (7.0), helping San Diego State move into sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
“We’re a leg up now, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Dutcher said.
The Aztecs still need leading scorer Matt Bradley to be more consistent.
He scored four points in an 85-75 win against visiting Utah State on Jan. 25, and was held to three points in the win against Boise State, well below his 12.8 season average.
Utah State will likely keep closer tabs on San Diego State reserve shooting guard Adam Seiko, who scored a career-high 25 points against the Aggies last month. He made seven straight 3s to start the game before finishing 7-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Seiko hasn’t cooled off much, making 6 of 15 attempts from 3-point distance in the past three games.
The Aggies (19-5, 8-3) have won three in a row since losing to the Aztecs, keeping them in a three-way tie for second with Boise State and Nevada in the conference standings.
Utah State shot 18-for-39 from 3-point range in an 88-79 win at Colorado State on Saturday, the fourth-most made 3s in program history. The Aggies entered this week as the most efficient 3-point shooting team in the nation at 41.8 percent from beyond the arc.
It was also the third time this season the Aggies made at least 18 3-pointers in a game, tied for the most among Division I teams.
Steven Ashworth was held to eight points against the Aztecs last month, but the junior point guard is averaging 19.7 points in the three games since to boost his scoring average to a team-high 15.9.
Ashworth shot 8-for-17 from 3-point range and scored 26 points in the win against the Rams on Saturday.
San Diego State will try to do a better job defending 6-foot-9 senior forward Taylor Funk, who scored 22 points against the Aztecs. Funk is coming off a 21-point performance against Colorado State in which he shot 5-for-9 from 3-point distance.
–Field Level Media