College basketball’s last remaining undefeated team, fourth-ranked San Diego State, seeks a season sweep of visiting New Mexico on Tuesday.
The Aztecs (24-0, 13-0 Mountain West Conference) extended the nation’s only unblemished mark and the best start in program history on Saturday with a late surge at Air Force, 89-74.
“It wasn’t easy,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said in his postgame press conference. “They put up a heck of a battle and shot a high percentage against us, probably the highest of anybody this year. But we played great offensively and probably shot our highest (percentage) for the season.”
The 29-of-52 shooting from the field bumped San Diego State into the nation’s top 10 of adjusted offensive efficiency through the weekend, per KenPom.com. KJ Feagin scored a team-high 21 points, a statistic reflective of the Aztecs’ offensive balance.
Five San Diego State players come into Tuesday’s matchup with New Mexico (17-8, 6-6) averaging between Feagin’s 8.8 points per game and Malachi Flynn’s team-leading 16.5.
Feagin is shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range, Flynn is making 38.2 percent with a team-best 52 made 3-pointers, and Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell are shooting 43.2 percent and 42 percent from long range, respectively. All told, San Diego State ranks No. 11 in the nation at 38.8 percent from behind the arc.
The Aztecs shot 58.2 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3-point range in their 85-57 rout of New Mexico on Jan. 29 in Albuquerque, but their signature defense set the tone.
San Diego State handed the Lobos their first loss of the season at the famed Pit, after holding New Mexico scoreless for the first 4:41 and building a 17-0 lead.
The Lobos shot just 33.8 percent from the floor and 17.4 percent from behind the 3-point arc, and their 57 points fell almost 23 below their season average.
At 79.6 points per game, New Mexico had the nation’s 18th-most prolific scoring offense through the weekend.
The Lobos get a boost in their rematch with San Diego State. Leading scorer JaQuan Lyle, who missed the matchup in Albuquerque, returned from a disciplinary suspension on Saturday to appear in the Lobos’ 97-68 win over Wyoming.
Lyle scored just five points in the blowout, but he added six rebounds and four assists. His average of 16.5 points per game leads a New Mexico starting five in which each player averages more than nine points per game.
Among them is Corey Manigault at 12.9 points per game, coming off a career-high 28-point performance against the Cowboys.
Manigault has been consistent despite New Mexico’s roster fluctuation. Before Lyle’s suspension, post presence Carlton Bragg was kicked off the team. Bragg was averaging a double-double at the time of his dismissal following his arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana.
“Our chemistry’s not a problem,” Manigault said in the postgame press conference on Saturday. “Everybody likes each other off the court and on the court, so it’s really not that. Sometimes we’ve just got to come in and just execute.”
–Field Level Media