Remaining as one of only two unbeaten teams in the country has not come without obstacles for No. 7 San Diego State, such as playing down to some opponents and working around injuries.
San Diego State (16-0, 5-0 Mountain West) made it a mission Wednesday in its 23-hour charter flight trip to Laramie, Wyo., to win convincingly over struggling Wyoming (5-11, 0-5) after the Aztecs were taken to the last second against perennial conference doormat San Jose State last month.
The Aztecs accomplished their objective by leading by as many as 15 points in the first half before routing the Cowboys 72-52.
Malachi Flynn, among 25 players this week named to the John R. Wooden Award 2019-20 Midseason Watch List by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, led the Aztecs with 19 points.
Of some of the closer-than-expected outcomes, including having to rally late against Tennessee State at home before pulling away, Flynn said, “It’s been going that way, but we’ve definitely got to stop doing that and be who we are every night, no matter who we’re playing.”
“It’s just natural that if you’re playing a better team, you’re going to be more ready for it,” he added. “That’s natural for every basketball player, I think. But we’ve definitely got to fix that.”
San Diego State heads into its home game Saturday against Boise State (11-6, 3-2) joined by Auburn (14-0) as the only unbeaten teams in the country. The Aztecs are off to their second-best start in program history, trailing only the 2010-11 team with Kawhi Leonard that started 20-0.
They are winning despite playing without three contributors at the power forward position — Nathan Mensah (respiratory ailment), Joel Mensah (back spasms) and Aguek Arop (shoulder). They combine to average 13.8 points and 10.7 rebounds a game. When each will return is uncertain.
“I don’t want to go that short-handed,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “I rave about my bench, but I’d be three down at that point (going into Saturday) and that might be too many — all at the size position.”
Boise State enters Saturday’s game coming off a 73-66 win over visiting UNLV on Saturday, a night in which Justinian Jessup became the program’s career 3-point leader. Jessup finished 5-of-6 from 3-point range. His first triple set the record and his fifth sealed the win, putting the Broncos up eight with 43 seconds to play.
He surpassed Anthony Drmic’s previous school record of 275 career 3-pointers and now is at 280. Jessup is fourth in Mountain West history and 16 shy of the record of 296 held by former BYU standout Jimmer Fredette.
“I just feel so thankful,” Jessup said of breaking the record. “All credit goes to God and the teammates I’ve had my four years here, that’s really why I’m in this position.
“Shooters aren’t anything without the guys that are passing to them, so I’m just thankful for those guys that just trusted me and stayed faithful with me even when I had bad games.”
Derrick Alston led all scorers with 26 points and tied for a game-high with 10 rebounds against UNLV. Alston has scored at least 20 points 11 times in Boise State’s 17 games. He has recorded three double-doubles, all coming in games he scored at least 20 points.
–Field Level Media