One of just two undefeated teams remaining in Division I, 13th-ranked San Diego State ushers in 2020 on Wednesday by resuming Mountain West play against Fresno State.
The Aztecs (13-0, 2-0 MW) played nonconference opponents in their last three games, winning by an average of 29.3 points.
Two of those wins came against NAIA San Diego Christian and a Cal Poly team with just one Division I win, but in between, the Aztecs beat Utah by 28 on Dec. 21 — three days after the Utes beat Kentucky.
In a 73-57 win over Cal Poly on Saturday, the Aztecs overcame stretches of offensive anemia.
“For the game after Christmas, I thought our energy was good,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said in his postgame news conference. “We just couldn’t make a shot. We had some open looks and we shared the ball well, but when the ball is not going in, obviously it becomes a challenge.”
The Aztecs shot just 25 of 60 from the floor, but 17 of their made field goals came via assists. Such has been the offensive M.O. for a team greatly improved on that side of the floor compared to a season ago.
The Aztecs have gotten assists on 58.4 percent of their field goals this season. They rank No. 46 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency thus far in 2019-20, up from No. 184 in 2018-19, per KenPom.com.
The addition of Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn has provided the San Diego State offense a boost. He is averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game, one of four Aztecs averaging in double figures, and he posted a game-high 14 against Cal Poly.
San Diego State also features Yanni Wetzel at 11.2 points per game, Matt Mitchell at 10.8 and Jordan Schakel at 10.6.
Fresno State (4-9, 0-2) features four double-digit scorers of its own, but finding a consistent offensive rhythm has been a struggle for the Bulldogs. They scored fewer than 70 points in six of their nine losses.
Eight of those losses also came by 10 points or fewer, including Fresno State’s most recent outing — a 60-57 loss at home to UC Irvine on Saturday.
The Bulldogs welcomed back Jarred Hyder and his 11.4 points per game for that one, but he managed just two points in his first game since Dec. 11 after recovering from a knee injury.
Fresno State shot 20 of 48 from the floor and squandered a 20-point lead in the defeat.
“Those young men have their heads up, and we have a firm game plan and everybody’s mind (is) right,” Bulldogs coach Justin Hutson told reporters in his postgame news conference. “I don’t know if our confidence is gone. Mine is not.”
Orlando Robinson, who averages 12 points per game, scored almost half of Fresno State’s points in the loss with 27. UC Riverside opted to give the forward space.
“Once they did it, I was thinking in my mind, is this gonna be this easy? You’re really gonna let me do this all game?” Robinson said in the postgame news conference.
Robinson is unlikely to see a similar strategy against San Diego State. The Aztecs rank No. 14 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency en route to the program’s best start since opening 2010-11 at 20-0.
–Field Level Media