Tonight marked my first look at the 2018-19 San Diego State men’s basketball Aztecs and … well … before I get to gushing over this 103-64 thrashing of Texas Southern, I feel like I should temper things a bit.
The last time the Aztecs kept it one hunnit, as the kids say, I was inspired to write this bit of sanguine nonsense that looks pretty dumb now. That 2016-17 team ended up being one of the most disappointing SDSU squads in a decade. So beware the siren song of the small sample size is what I’m saying.
That said …
These new look Tecs kind of pass the eye test, don’t they?
We’ve been told that this year’s team might be more of a team, and the early evidence suggests there may be truth to that. Tonight, the passing was crisp, the defense was energetic and things just seemed more cohesive generally than we’ve been used two over the past couple of years — at least until the ref show made the game borderline unwatchable in the second half.
SDSU went up double-digits 5 minutes into the game. Ten minutes later, the lead was up 20. Ten minutes into the second half, it was up to 30.
Jalen McDaniels started the game hot, keying a blowout from the very start to make sure he only needed to put in 23 minutes of work. With 14 points, he was one of six Aztecs in double-figures, including Matt Mitchell who added a game-high 21 and Jordan Schakel who nailed three treys for 16.
But the breakout star of the game was Ghanaian freshman and noted large human Nathan Mensah, who came off the bench for 11 points, 5 boards and two blocks in only 20 minutes. He had two dunks and made 5-of-6 free throws, thrilling both the distracted Millennials and grumpy Barrys in one fell swoop. He scored 7 points in less than 5 minutes as the Aztecs pulled away in the first half, earning one of Viejas Arena’s loudest ovations of the night when he was subbed out.
The 6-10, 225-pounder is going to be an absolute problem for people this season. I was particularly intrigued by Dutcher playing Mensah and 6-10 junior Nolan Narain at the same time during the second half. The lineup permutations this roster offers are borderline erotic.
The thing about all this? Texas Southern might not actually be terrible. Though the Tigers sit at 1-3, their win is over Baylor and their other losses are to Iowa State and Gonzaga. They’ve got a bunch of seniors and a 7-2 center who came in averaging 14 points and 13 boards. Tonight, the Aztecs made them look like a bunch of doofs in Steph Curry shirseys at the ARC.
Play of the game
With 1:07 left, Nathan Mensah whipped a pass into the paint to Joel Mensah (no relation, a la the SoccerCity Stones) for the jam and point No. 100. At that moment all of us left at Viejas immediately ascended to Valhalla, or whatever the Ghanaian mythological equivalent of Valhalla might be. Editor’s note: 71 percent of Ghanaians are Christian, so that would be “heaven.”
Some Best of Aztecs Twitter
An early-season Barrying, as curated by @AttemptedChem:
What’s next for the basketball Tecs
SDSU, clearly an unbeatable juggernaut, will now prepare to dismantle its next unfortunate victim. Who is that, anyway?
Let’s see here, let me open up the old pocket schedule. Ah, looks like there’s a game on Monday afternoon in Maui. That sure is unusual. The opponent is … hang on let me get my glasses.
Ah. Zion Williamson and Duke.
It will be interesting to see who will win.