The San Diego State men’s basketball team doesn’t want to fall into another trap when it hosts New Mexico in a Mountain West Conference game on Saturday night.
The No. 23 Aztecs struggled mightily against a full-court press late in a 74-65 win over visiting Nevada on Tuesday, allowing the Wolf Pack to cut a 21-point deficit with five minutes remaining to single digits with just under a minute left.
Other than that, it was a nearly flawless performance for San Diego State (13-3, 4-0 MWC), which has won six in a row.
“I thanked (the players) after the game for the last three minutes,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “I told them, if they’d played 40 minutes like they did the whole game, then they wouldn’t need any coaching. So I thanked them, because now I get to coach again.”
San Diego State guard Matt Bradley, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, said the Aztecs were initially guilty of being too lackadaisical against the press while holding the big lead.
Then they began to doubt themselves.
Bradley said it’s up to the players to prevent that frame of mind from taking hold.
“We’re better than that,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re thinking back on those times where we had (earlier) issues with that. I think we just have to be confident and trust our game and not let those situations get the best of us.”
The Aztecs have shown they have plenty of options when they get the ball past half court. Six players average from 7.1 to 13.5 points and can score from a variety of spots on the floor.
Dutcher is still far from satisfied, however.
“We have to become better playmakers when we get the ball with the space that we have and know what we’re doing, and we will,” he said. “I’m not overly concerned with it.”
Lamont Butler has been hot for San Diego State the past two games, averaging 19 points and shooting 7 for 16 from 3-point range.
New Mexico (15-2, 2-2) won its first 14 games and spent two weeks in the AP Top 25, rising as high as No. 21 before losing back-to-back conference games against Fresno State and UNLV.
The Lobos got a chance to regroup on Monday in a nonconference game against visiting Oral Roberts and won 82-75.
“I don’t think we are playing poorly,” New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said. “We could have won Fresno State and UNLV. We were in both games. They made some plays and we didn’t. We had to find a way to get a win (against Oral Roberts). We are 15-2, and I’m really proud of them.”
New Mexico is led by Jamal Mashburn Jr., the son of former 12-year NBA veteran Jamal Mashburn, who averages 17.9 points for the Lobos.
Mashburn, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, has reached double figures in scoring in every game this season, most recently matching his season high with 24 points in the win against Oral Roberts.
–Field Level Media