Matt Mitchell scored 31 points, Malik Pope registered his second double-double of the young season, and San Diego State never trailed en route to defeating Eastern Illinois University 94-63 on Monday night at Viejas Arena.
In the first half, Trey Kell and Malik Pope paced the Aztecs. Kell, a senior out of St. Augustine High School, registered 10 points, four rebounds, and four assists prior to the break. For the second straight game, senior forward Malik Pope almost had a double-double by halftime. His 13 points and seven rebounds helped the Aztecs build a 40-25 lead going into the locker room.
What came next was the Matt Mitchell show. In the first ten minutes of the second half, the 6'6″ freshman scored 18 points on 6-7 shooting (4-5 from three). He ended up scoring 26 points in16 second-half minutes, not subbing out until there were four minutes left to play. The Riverside native's performance had Viejas Arena buzzing with excitement. When Mitchell was fouled on a three-point attempt with 4:41 to go in regulation, he received a loud ovation from the Aztec faithful as he approached the free throw line. The applause turned into a standing ovation from the crowd and his teammates when he was removed from the game a few moments later.
Mitchell, who scored the aforementioned 31 points on just 14 shots, credited the performance to his teammates and coaches. He cited trust as a key factor in how he played: "We just all put it together, and we got a win. We did what we needed to do," he said.
His 31 points were the most by an Aztec freshman since Evan Burns scored 31 points vs. New Mexico in 2003.
Mitchell's scoring outburst was not the only notable performance on the night. Malik Pope registered his second double-double in four games this season, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 30 minutes played. Trey Kell filled the stat sheet with 14 points, five rebounds, and seven assists.
SDSUended up shooting 52% from the field as well as 52% (13-25) from three-point land. Nine out of the 11 Aztecs who played on the night managed to make at least one field goal.Brian Dutcher's teamhad 21 assists on 32 made baskets while outscoring EIU 34-16 in the paint.
For the second straight game, the Aztecs held their opponent to under 40% shooting. The Panthers shot only 36% from the field.
Jajuan Starks led Eastern Illinoiswith 17 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Montell Goodwin (14 points) and Michael Chavers (11 points) were the only other players in double digits for the Panthers, who fell to 1-3 on the season.
The Aztecs improved their record to 3-1.
The Aztecs will be playing in the Wooden Legacy at Cal State Fullerton later this week. Their opening round matchup will be against Sacramento State, with tip off scheduled for Thanksgiving Night (November 23) at 10:00 PM PT.