Mon, 12 Apr 2021

No. 22 San Diego State, Boise State meet in pivotal MWC game

Field Level Media
24 Feb 2021, 18:55 GMT+10

San Diego State is soaring down the stretch of the season and aims to record its ninth straight victory when it hosts Boise State in Mountain West play on Thursday night.

The No. 22 Aztecs (17-4, 11-3 MWC) will also entertain first-place Boise State (18-4, 14-3) on Saturday to complete a two-gameset.

San Diego State has been superb during its hot streak as it has won the eight games by an average of 26.4 points. Four of the victories have been by at least 30 points and the smallest winning margin is 14.

But the Aztecs are looking up at the Broncos in the battle for the top seed of next month's Mountain West postseason tournament. And coach Brian Dutcher sees a couple of tough games on the horizon this week.

"They are a lot like us. One guy doesn't have to carry them," Dutcher said of the Broncos. "They've got a lot of offensive pieces that on any given night can get going. They're balanced and well-coached and they play well together."

Boise State has won four consecutive games and is kind of a surprise entrant into the best of the Mountain West conversation. The Broncos haven't participated in the NCAA Tournament since 2015 and the program has never won a single game during March Madness in seven attempts.

But they have one of the conference's best players in Derrick Alston Jr. (17.7 points per game). Alston also is hot after being named Mountain West Player of the Week after averaging 24.5 points in two victories over Utah State last week.

Abu Kigab (12.8) also is a solid contributor. Boise State is 14-1 when Kigab scores in double digits.

"I just try to be aggressive," Kigab said of the success. "When I'm aggressive I feel like I have an easier time finding my teammates. The game comes easier to me on defense and offense. I'm just going to continue to keep doing that. I'm a team player first. I love my teammates, so I'm always looking to get them going right away."

San Diego State had its own solid duo in Matt Mitchell (15.1) and Jordan Schakel (14.6).

Mitchell is the team's best player while Schakel is an outside bomber who leads the Mountain West in 3-pointers (63) and 3-point percentage (45.7).

Schakel made all four of his 3-point attempts and all five overall shots while scoring 14 points in last Saturday's 75-57 road win over Fresno State.

"I was more confident and more aggressive on some of the shots," Schakel said of his prowess against the Bulldogs. "They make it hard. They get in the gaps and play defense like we do. It's tough but it's not impossible."

The Aztecs lead the Mountain West in scoring defense (59.7), field-goal percentage defense (39.0) and steals (8.2).

The defensive effort will need to be high to slow the Broncos, who lead the Mountain West in scoring offense (77.8) and rank second in field goal percentage (46.5 percent).

Boise State coach Leon Rice doesn't need to be told these are two big contests for his club.

"You have to win games down the stretch," Rice said after Saturday's triumph. "You have to win big games in February and there's a lot of people losing these games. Everybody is fighting for their lives and I just give a lot of credit to our guys."

San Diego State has beaten the Broncos four consecutive times and holds a 15-7 series edge.

--Field Level Media

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