San Diego,CA- The San Diego State Aztecs rose from 10th in the Associated Press and 10th in Coaches Top 25 poll to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll and No. 8 in the Coaches Top 25 poll this week.
The Aztecs went 2-0 this past week defeating conference rivals 3rd place UNLV and 2nd place New Mexico for the Mountain West Regular Season Champion
Wednesday night the Aztecs rallied to defeat the UNLV Running Rebels 73-64 .
The Aztecs started the game strong on offense going on a 10-0 run on three straight turnovers by the Rebels to give the Aztecs a 12-5 lead. The Rebels would answer right back going on a 10-0 run of their own to retake the lead 15-12 midway through the first half. With the Rebels leading the Aztecs 20-14, with 8:41 left in the first half, the Aztecs would go on a 15-5 run to retake the lead 29-25 lead with a few minutes left in the half. The Aztecs would’ve gone into halftime with the lead 33-32, until Aztecs Matt Shrigley fouled Kevin Olekaibe with 0.2 left in the half. Kevin Olekaibe would make two out of three free-throws to give UNLV the lead 34-33 at the half.
The Rebels would continue their hot shooting in the second half, maintaining a five point lead to start the half, until the Aztecs tied the game at 50-50 on a three by Matt Shrigley. The lead would’ve been much larger for the Rebels, if it was’t for the hot shooting by Shrigley who kept the Aztecs in the game by going 5 for-5 from the field with 4 straight threes to start the second half and tie the game. The Aztecs and Rebels would alternate their lead back and fourth to end the game, until with the Aztecs trailing 62-61, Thames would drive to the lane for a three-point play to give the Aztecs the lead 64-62. The Aztecs would not reliquish their lead from that point on, as the Aztecs finished the game on a 13-2 run to seal the win.
On Saturday night the Aztecs cameback to defeat No. 21 New Mexico 51-48 to win the Mountain West Regular Season Conference Championship Saturday night.
Aztecs struggled to guard the Lobos big men to start the game, scoring on their first four possessions to give the Lobos the early lead. The would then go on a 12-0 run and held the Lobo’s without a point for over 8 minutes of game play to take the lead 16-9. The Lobos would go on a run of their own to end the first half, going on a 15-2 run to retake the lead 26-20 over the Aztecs at the half. Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk dominated the Aztecs inside scoring 22 of the Lobo’s 26 poimts.
Bairstow and Kirk continued to dominate the Aztecs inside to start the second half, going on 15-0 run to increase the Lobo’s lead to 41-25 with 12:05 left in the game. With the Aztecs down 16 points and unable to defend the Lobo’s big-men, the Aztecs went into desperation mode and decided to go against the defense they’ve run all season and instead play a 1-3-1 zone. That decision changed the game for the Aztecs, as the Lobo’s were unable to score on the Aztecs zone defense, allowing the Aztecs to go on a 19-1 run to take the lead over the Lobo’s 44-42. Dwayne Polee II lead the Aztecs zone defense, as his wing defense pressuring forced multiple Aztecs steals that resulted in scores during their 19-1 run and didn’t allow the Lobo’s to get in their set’s on offense. The Aztecs would finish the game on a 26-7 run to end the game and seal a 51-48 comeback win for the Aztecs.
As the buzzer rang the Aztecs fans stormed the court as black and red confetti fell from the ceiling to celebrate the Aztecs first outright Mountain West Conference Regular Season Championship since 2006 and their third Mountain West Conference Regular Season Championship in the last four years.
Senior Xavier Thames lead the Aztecs comeback on Senior Night with 23 points.
The Aztecs return to the court Thursday afternoon as the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament and will face the winner of (8) Utah State v.s (9) Colorado State.
The Aztecs also continue to be the highest ranked team on the west coast, with no other west coast team ranked in the Top 25 poll’s.