Aztec Men's Hoops Down Fresno State, 64-52, in MW Quarterfinals

Jalen McDaniels and the Aztecs downed Fresno State, 64-52.
Jalen McDaniels and the Aztecs downed Fresno State, 64-52.
March 8, 2018

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Gameday Central

LAS VEGAS (By W.G. Ramirez) - San Diego State's men's basketball program has been the most successful team to participate in the Mountain West tournament since the conference's inception.

Chalk up another win.

Trey Kell scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead fifth-seeded San Diego State to a 64-52 victory over No. 4 seed Fresno State on Thursday, in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Mountain West Men's Basketball Championship.

"We look like Aztec teams of old, where we can struggle through an offensive period or two because our defense is so strong," San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. "And that has kind of spearheaded our 7-game streak right now. And we have to continue to defend if we want to advance in this tournament."

San Diego State, which owns the highest winning percentage (28-14, .667) in MW tournament history, will face top-seeded Nevada in one semifinal Friday at 6 pm.

"They're a fantastic team, we can all see that, what they've done with their body of work this year. And it's going to be a real challenge," Dutcher said of Nevada. "But having just played them less than a week ago, the game prep is pretty much the same for both teams, I'd imagine. There will be a tweak here or there, but in playing in 24 hours, there's not a lot each team is going to do. We are who we are."

Who they are, is a team that closed the regular campaign with six straight wins, including a 79-74 win over top-seed Nevada in the season-finale. The Aztecs are also a team looking to make the championship game for the fourth time in five years. San Diego State won the tournament in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2011.

The Aztecs were sparked by a 12-3 run midway through the second half, and pulled away from Fresno State, improving to 14-5 in the quarterfinal round.

"I had no clue about that streak," Kell said. "I just feel like we lock in really well in the first game and we don't take any game for granted, no matter who the opponent is. Tonight we played a really good Fresno team. And there was some added motivation knowing we haven't beat them yet this year, especially the last time we played them the way we lost. We don't take anything for granted."

Malik Pope had 12 points and four rebounds, while Matt Mitchell added 10 points and five rebounds for the Aztecs.

Bryson Williams scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Fresno State, while Deshon Taylor chipped in with 12 points.

San Diego State limited Fresno State's second-chance opportunities by grabbing 19 defensive rebounds in the first half.

Fresno State, which struggled from long range in the first half going 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, opened the game by missing nine of its first 11 attempts from the floor.

"We knew we were playing probably the hottest team coming into the tournament," Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said. "Give their seniors a lot of credit in terms of how they played down the stretch. Kell had a big game today. Pope is always a problem to deal with. Brian has his group playing at a very high level right now."

The Bulldogs shot just 34.4 percent (11-of-32) in the first half, while capitalizing with just two fast break points. Though it forced the Aztecs to commit seven turnovers over the first 20 minutes, Fresno State managed to convert them to just two points.

"I think that at the end of the day we always talk about fundamentals is really important, that we stick to the fundamentals, and make the simple play," Terry said. "And give them credit, their defense was in the right position at times to take some of the things that we were trying to do away."

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