A little after noon Pacific time, I was in a pretty dark place. Well, I was at work, so that goes without saying. But more so than usual even!
In my head, I was already crafting a depressing game recap about how the Aztecs were on the verge of being cast into the sea at the Maui Invitational. How the hunt for a quality nonconference win was looking grim. How one day after getting their doors blown off by No. 1 Duke, the Aztecs responded by getting their doors blown off by a team that was very decidedly not Duke.
Don’t get me wrong, Xavier is a solid Big East foe, but when you’re getting run by 19 in the first half against the Musketeers, many people would consider that time to panic.
Instead, Jalen McDaniels decided it was time to grab himself some plate lunch and fuckin’ eat.
McDaniels scored a career-high 26 points as the Aztecs roared to within three at halftime and then dominated the game’s final 15 minutes for a 79-74 win — a thrilling national TV showcase for both an NBA prospect and a team looking to build an at-large resume.
This is *not* March, but that was some good shit nonetheless.
McDaniels’ performance was downright Leonardian. He finished 9-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also added eight rebounds, three blocks and his characteristically active defense. On National Absurdity Day (perhaps you heard about this on the broadcast?) it was a wonderfully absurd performance.
Have a look at his play during the frantic 24-6 run SDSU used to close the half:
My favorite part of that sequence? Check out the way that side door opened right before McDaniels’ 3-ball splashed down, allowing the beautiful sunlight of the Islands stream into the Lahaina Civic Center and give the shot a heavenly aura. With just over a minute left in the game, McDaniels got some more divine intervention on another clutch trey, a shot from the parking lot that got an unbelievably soft bounce off the front iron and in to put the Aztecs up 69-63.
Now why would the Allmighty have an apparent rooting interest in a Maui Invitational loser’s bracket game between SDSU and Xavier, you ask? I’ll let the theologians sort that one out, but I suspect She had taken the Tecs plus 1.5.
SDSU blasting off like a dang rocket ship after falling behind 32-13 is one possible answer. A HELLA BASIC ANSWER.
I prefer to go with the flurry of 3-pointers that sunk the Musketeers after Xavier had seemingly regained its footing after halftime. Between 15:27 and 10:13, the Aztecs saw 3-ball makes from Jordan Schakel, Devin Watson, Watson again, Matt Mitchell and Schakel again. SDSU went from six points down to nine points up over that span.
Watson scored 21 for the game, added seven assists and was nails at the line in the final minute.
Schakel, who apparently isn’t satisfied with just being the glue guy who trucks the candy vendor while diving after a loose ball, added 13 points. He is now 8-of-16 on threes this season — an extremely EYEBALLS EMOJI stat.
ESPN Broadcast by the numbers
2 — people shown consuming shaved ice outside while consequential game action was happening off-screen
3 — unprompted Ted Leitner shoutouts by Bill Walton
75 — disquieting closeups of Jay Bilas’ oiled-up back and calves*
*at least it seemed like that many.
Best Some of Aztecs Twitter
We’ll keep things simple here.
What’s next for the basketball Tecs
SDSU, now playing with house money, concludes its Maui Invitational experience tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. against Iowa State (4-1). The Cyclones knocked off Illinois today and barely lost to Arizona on Monday. If the Aztecs come home 2-1, with their only loss coming against No. 1 Duke, fans should greet the team at the damn airport.