San Diego, CA – The San Diego State Aztecs faced an old Mountain West rival in the BYU Cougars at Viejas Arena Friday afternoon. The Cougars came into the game with an 82-64 win against their in-state rival Utah. The Aztecs came into the game feeling confident and have played with a chip on their shoulder, which has been a mindset instilled in them since the Steve Fisher days. Coach Brian Dutcher has them off to another great start as they have already beaten two PAC-12 teams in UCLA and Arizona State. However, the undefeated season came to an end against BYU as the Cougars beat them 72-62.
BYU controlled the first half of action and played loose and unselfish basketball on offense as Arizona transfer, Alex Barcello led his team from the get-go and dictated the pace of the game finding open 3-point shooters and hitting two 3s of his own. Barcello finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Cougars also created problems for the Aztecs on the defensive side with the length from Purdue transfer, Matt Haarms and the energy from breakout freshman Caleb Lohner. This helped BYU get out to a 35-20 lead at halftime. The Aztecs shot 25 percent and had eight turnovers in the first half, while BYU went 5-of-14 from 3 in the half on a lot of uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns from San Diego State.
The Aztecs came out of the second half with their trademark physical defensive play and cut the 15-point deficit to eight points with a 3-pointer in transition from Jordan Schakel which were his only points of the game. The Cougars locked down the Aztecs’ most talented offensive player and heavily contested all his shot attempts. The Aztecs gained a disadvantage on the glass in the second half when big man, Nathan Mensah picked up his fourth foul of the game and had to sit on the bench most of the second half. The game went back and forth after that point and a couple of SDSU turnovers gave the Cougars a 12-point lead with 5:53 left. SDSU had one last surge in them due to the impressive performance from forward, Matt Mitchell. Mitchell, who had a career-high 35 points, hit back-back 3 pointers off isolation to trim the deficit to five points. Following a Mitchell free throw, BYU guard, Brandon Averette hit a crucial 3 with 51.5 seconds remaining from the top of the key. BYU ultimately fought off the Aztecs making six last-minute free-throws.
The win for BYU (7-2) is their biggest of the season and they will look to continue their momentum against Texas Southern of the SWAC on Monday. The Aztecs (5-1) will look to bounce back against another WCC opponent in St. Mary’s on Tuesday.