Following a difficult loss against Arizona State in which they were outscored 56-28 in the second half, the Aztecs returned to the friendly confines of Viejas Arena looking to bounce back against the McNeese State Cowboys.
That, they did.
The Aztecs were powered by a strong first half on Friday night, taking a 46-19 lead at the break. The half included the Aztecs limiting McNeese State to 25% shooting (8-32). Senior forward Malik Pope scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds (and also was a game-high +32) in theopening half to lead the Aztecs.
A dominant first half was highlighted by a 26-2 run as time wound down. The burst was part of a 36-8 scoring run that extended the Aztecs' lead from 13-11 to 46-19.
Head Coach Brian Dutcher said after the game that he was pleased with the Aztecs' performance on both sides of the ball in the first half. Specifically, he called his team's toughness on defense a "step in the right direction."
With a large lead, the Aztecs cruised to victory in the closinghalf. The blowout gave Dutcher a primeopportunity to get his non-starters some playing time. Montaque Gill-Caesar, Jalen McDaniels, Jordan Schakel, Nolan Narain, and Jeremy Hemsley were all able to play significant minutes as the Aztecs held a commanding lead. Dutcher ended up playing eleven different players on the night.
San Diego State outscored McNeese State 37-33 in the second half.
All in all, Devin Watson led the Aztecs in scoring and assists. The junior guard out of Carlsbad poured in 20 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out eight assists. It was a welcome sight to see, as Watson had struggled to get into a groove in the season's first two games.
Coach Brian Dutcher had high praise for him following the game; calling Watson a "smart player" who "wreaks havoc" on the offensive side of the ball. Tonight, Watson was definitely the player that the Aztecs need him to be moving forward.
Senior forward Malik Pope narrowly missed a double-double, scoring 16 points and recording nine rebounds. Trey Kell was the only other Aztec in double-digits, with 13 points scored.
Quattarius Wilson led the Cowboys in scoring, with 15 points. He was the only McNeese State player in double-digits scoring. The junior out of Alabama also grabbed eight rebounds.
The Aztecs' stifling defense held the Cowboys overall to 31% shooting and 15% from three point range. They also forced 16 turnovers, blocked six shots, and never trailed in the contest.
The Aztecs improved to 3-0 all time vs. McNeese State and improved to 2-1 on the young season.
The Aztecs host Eastern Illinois on Monday, November 20, at 7:30 PM PT. The game will be televised on Fox Sports San Diego/Prime Ticket and will be available to livestream on FoxSportsGO.