SAN DIEGO, Calif., Dec. 18 – San Diego State showed why it is a top-25 team Wednesday night as the Aztecs, who are ranked 23rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 24th in the Associated Press Poll, handled the Thunderbirds 76-39.
The Aztecs were hot on the offensive end and stifling on the defensive end early as they scored the first 11 points of the game and built a 41-11 lead at halftime. SUU didn’t score until Jaren Jeffery converted a layup to get the Thunderbirds on the scoreboard with 16:42 to play in the first half but the Aztecs dominated the period, limiting SUU to 3-of-18 shooting while converting 15-of-30 shots, including 6-of-11 3-pointers.
The Thunderbirds turned it around early in the second half, hitting five of their first six shots to pull within 48-24 on a Trey Kennedy 3-pointer with 16 minutes to play but SDSU answered with eight straight points to make it a 56-24 game with 12:43 to play.
A.J. Hess and Juwan Major each scored to bring SUU back within 56-28 but Virginia transfer James Johnson scored to make it a 58-28 game and SUU didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
“San Diego State did a great job of pressuring, that’s what they do,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “We thought we were prepared coming into the game but we weren’t. We had a few shots that didn’t go down early and they were able to make some baskets early and build some momentum.
“I thought we were better in the second half, we were able to run the offense and be more aggressive on defense but at that point it was a bit too late,” Robinson added. “We’re going to continue to improve, continue to work hard in practice, continue to work on making shots and move on.”
Kennedy led Southern Utah with 10 points but was the only Thunderbird in double figures. Hess finished with seven points while Major and Cal Hanks both came off the bench to pull down a team-high five rebounds each.
Xavier Thames led the Aztecs with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-5 3-point attempts, while Aqeel Quinn came off the bench to add 14 points and Josh Davis finished with a double-double, scoring 13 points and pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds.