3 thoughts: SDSU 73, No. 22 UCLA 53

SDSU senior Matt Mitchell walks off the court as coach Brian Dutcher waves to UCLA coach Mick Cronin.
SDSU senior Matt Mitchell walks off the court as coach Brian Dutcher waves to UCLA coach Mick Cronin after the Aztecs upset the Bruins at Viejas Arena.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The little things that win games, taking charges and the artificial crowd noise in Viejas Arena

Three thoughts on San Diego State’s 73-58 win against No. 22 UCLA on Wednesday night at Viejas Arena:

1. The little things

If you are creating a highlight video that accurately reflects how the Aztecs beat — no, dominated — the Bruins, you wouldn’t splice together deep 3s or rim-shaking dunks or fallaway jumpers in traffic. You’d start with 1:38 left in a 17-point game, well after the result was no longer in doubt.

You’d start with UCLA getting a 2-on-1 fast break, Tyger Campbell on one wing and Jaime Jaquez Jr. on the other against a backpedaling Aztecs guard Trey Pulliam.

And in the far left of the frame you’d see Matt Mitchell, the most decorated member of the Aztecs, trailing the play as Campbell prepared to lob over Pulliam for a Jaquez dunk.


Mitchell could have easily let the play go, content to lead by 15 inside two minutes to go.

He didn’t, flying in from the left side and tipping Campbell’s lob out of bounds.

When coach Brian Dutcher spewed the usual platitudes afterward about a total team effort and their program’s identity, this is what he was talking about. The little things that win basketball games, the moments between the lines of the box score, the effort plays, the hustle plays, the want-to plays.

Also in the highlight reel would be sophomore Keshad Johnson, getting his first meaningful minutes of his career against a ranked opponent. He got slammed by a back screen from 6-foot-9, 255-pound Cody Riley, leaving his defensive assignment, Jaquez, a free path to the basket.

Johnson absorbed the blow, raced to recover, leaped to block Jaquez’s shot, stripped the ball on the way down and saved it from going out of bounds.

A minute later, with the margin down to seven, Johnson found himself in the far corner when the Bruins got a steal to start the break. He sprinted 84 feet and went aerial for the last 10 to block a layup by Jake Kyman.

There was Joshua Tomaic, in his first game with SDSU, fighting for an offensive rebound in a tangle of arms and, instead of forcing it back up, feeding Jordan Schakel for a dagger 3.

There was 5-8 Terrell Gomez, also in his first game with SDSU, getting switched onto the 6-6 Jaquez in the post and, instead of screaming for help, stepping in and drawing a charge.


Gomez never did that at CSUN. But he’s not playing at CSUN anymore.

“They’ve got winning pedigree, their culture is built,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin gushed about the Aztecs earlier in the week. “(They’re a) veteran team that’s won a lot of games. They know how to win.”

After the game, he bemoaned his team’s lack of mental and physical toughness, about not doing the kinds of little things that win big games, adding: “We got taught a lesson tonight.”

2. Getting run over

There are few more thankless tasks in basketball than taking a charge, standing stationary without football pads while a 6-6, 220-pound power forward plows into you at full speed.


Lean back too soon to lessen the blow, and most officials won’t give you the call. You want it? You gotta earn it.

It’s become a bit of a lost art, especially since the NCAA added a restricted arc in the lane in 2010-11, inside of which players cannot draw offensive fouls. Veteran coaches also will tell you players are softer these days.

Another reason: Coaches don’t want to risk injury.

“It’s hard to take charges because I don’t like taking a lot in practice,” Dutcher said, “because I don’t want guys falling into other guys’ legs. We have the unique ability to not do it in practice, yet in game play be willing to step up and throw our body in front of someone else and take that charge.”


Or four. The Aztecs drew six offensive fouls (translation: UCLA turnovers), four of which were old-fashioned charges. Aguek Arop got two, Gomez and Nathan Mensah one each.

The last SDSU team that proficient at drawing charges was 2011-12, when Tim Shelton famously drew six in a single game at Arizona.

There are similarities, however. That team also followed a 30-win season and was replacing multiple starters, including a first-round NBA Draft pick, with grit more than raw talent.

3. The crowd (noise)

Imagine, for a moment, what Viejas Arena would have sounded like with 12,414 fans, watching their Aztecs pummel a ranked UCLA team, watching them do it on campus for the first time in 80 years, smelling blood in the water.


How deafening would it have been? How much might the Aztecs have won by?

But one thing it wasn’t inside Viejas Arena on Wednesday night was empty. There was music during warmups. There was the “I believe” chant before tipoff. There was crowd noise throughout, with roars after particularly momentous Aztecs baskets.

“At one point, I turned (to the assistants) and said: ‘Is it too loud in here?’” Dutcher said. “I couldn’t communicate with the team. It had a game feel … It was incredible the atmosphere they created with what they had to work with.”

Schakel admitted “there were times where it felt like a real game.”


Mitchell said “when they started playing the music and started generating the crowd noise, you got that little feel of energy, that outside source of crowd boost.”

The Aztecs were expecting it and practiced several times — including last Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage — while the techs calibrated the 60-odd sound situations and made sure the decibel levels didn’t exceed mandated limits. The Bruins weren’t.

Cronin was asked if it was a factor.

“No,” he said. “Some of the guys in our locker room, the way they played, they might want to use that as an excuse. The problem wasn’t the crowd noise. The problem was San Diego State.”


UC Irvine at SDSU

Site/time: Viejas Arena/4 p.m. Friday

On the air: Yurview (Cox and Spectrum cable)

Records: UCI is 0-1, SDSU is 1-0

Series history: SDSU leads 10-7 but this is the first meeting since a 69-66 Aztecs win in 1997 in Irvine.


Anteaters update: The Big West preseason favorite opened Wednesday with an 86-72 loss against Pepperdine at Viejas Arena. The Anteaters led by eight in the first half before collapsing and trailing by 23. Brad Greene, a 6-11 senior center from Lone Pine, had 20 points and nine rebounds, but Big Wet preseason player of the year Collin Welp had only 11 points on 4 of 16 shooting. Thirteen players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores; 6-3 rookie Dawson Baker had 13 points and six assists off the bench. “Our team has a long way to go with our competitive level right now,” said coach Russell Turner, whose teams have finished first or second in the Big West for seven straight seasons. “That was the most distressing thing to me – that we didn’t compete.” It wasn’t all bad: The Anteaters forced 19 turnovers and held Pepperdine to 40.6-percent shooting in the first half. Jeron Artest, the son of former NBA star Meta World Peace, starts at guard.

Aztecs update: This is the annual N7 game, where the Aztecs wear turquoise Nike uniforms to commemorate Native American Heritage Month and then auction them for charity. The 73-58 opening win against No. 22 UCLA was their fourth straight against Top 25 opposition at Viejas Arena. SDSU had a 21-6 advantage in bench scoring and 24-12 in points in the paint. Another key: only six turnovers over the final 34½ minutes while forcing 15. Another: 12 offensive rebounds, including three by Aguek Arop. Maryland grad transfer Joshua Tomaic had an efficient game backing up Nathan Mensah at center, with nine points on 4 of 5 shooting and two offensive boards in 14 minutes. The Aztecs were supposed to open the Mountain West season against Colorado State at 比特币交易网home Dec. 3 and 5, but those games have been postponed after CSU paused the program for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests. SDSU is looking for replacement games next week, likely against non-Div. I opponents.