One of just four unbeaten teams remaining in college basketball, No. 20 San Diego State hosts local NAIA program San Diego Christian on Wednesday night.
The Aztecs (10-0) will have gone 10 days between games, last suiting up Dec. 8 in a 59-57 thriller against Mountain West Conference counterpart San Jose State. Junior guard Malachi Flynn’s 3-pointer at the buzzer preserved San Diego State’s perfect start — even if it was not the play the Aztecs meant to run.
“Players make coaches look great, and that’s what Malachi did today. Because that is not the play I drew up,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I wanted to get a different shot.”
Whether it was drawn up or not, the play sent San Diego State into its finals week with an unblemished record. Before opening conference play with wins over Colorado State and San Jose State, the Aztecs drew national attention with their showing at the Las Vegas Invitational.
There, they knocked off quality opponents in Creighton and Iowa, both by double-digit margins.
“We knew the non-conference season was going to be important to us to potentially get an at-large bid if we need it,” Flynn said in his postgame press conference following the 83-73 defeat of Iowa on Nov. 29.
Wednesday’s game does not have the same resume-building potential.
San Diego Christian (2-6) comes into Viejas Arena on a three-game losing skid since opening Golden State Athletic Conference competition. The Hawks play the Aztecs on the second leg of a back-to-back, hosting Grace College just down Interstate 8 in El Cajon, Calif., on Tuesday night.
San Diego Christian lost its only other game this season against a Division I program, 87-59 at Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 30.
Guard Bryce Parsons scored 22 points in that game. Any points the Hawks can muster against a stifling San Diego State defense will be a bonus, as the Aztecs come in ranked No. 27 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com advanced metrics, and No. 17 in opponent effective field-goal percentage.
San Diego State teams have long staked their reputation on their defensive prowess, predating Dutcher replacing Steve Fisher as head coach in 2017. The 2019-20 Aztecs are shaping up as one of the better offensive squads in recent years.
Led by Flynn’s team-leading 16.1 points per game, four Aztecs are scoring in double figures. Junior forward Matt Mitchell — who, along with Flynn, is shooting north of 42 percent from behind the 3-point line — ranks second at 11.8 points per game.
Junior guard Jordan Schakel and senior forward Yanni Wetzel add 10.8 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.
Wednesday’s game is the first of three in 10 days to wrap up San Diego State’s nonconference schedule. The Aztecs face the Pac-12 Conference’s Utah Utes on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, then host Cal Poly on Dec. 28, leading into the remainder of the Mountain West season.
–Field Level Media