Mensah, No. 22 Aztecs beat Boise State 72-52 for MWC lead
By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nathan Mensah scored 17 points as No. 22 San Diego State raced past Boise State 72-52 Friday night in a showdown of the Mountain West Conference’s top two teams despite an off night by Aztecs’ leading scorers Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell.
Keshad Johnson added 10 for SDSU (18-5, 9-2), which regained sole possession of first place. Bradley came in leading the Aztecs at 13.2 points per game but didn’t score until making a jumper with 9:16 to play, finishing with three points. Trammell came in averaging 11.1 and didn’t score until making a shot earlier in the second half, finishing with four.
Max Rice scored 16 for Boise State (18-6, 8-3), which was without its leading ballhandler, point guard Marcus Shaver Jr., who was out with a high ankle sprain. Shaver had a walking boot on his right foot.
BSU beat SDSU three times last year, including in championship game of the conference tournament.
The Aztecs raced to a 43-21 halftime lead despite getting zero points from Bradley and Trammell. Mensah led the way with 12 points and Adam Seiko had nine.
“I’m extremely pleased with our performance tonight. I thought we put 40 minutes together,” said coach Brian Dutcher, whose Aztecs were coming off a nine-point loss at Nevada in which they didn’t play well in the second half. “We’ve obviously played 20 minutes of great basketball most games, usually the first half, but the second half I thought we came out and competed at a higher level than we had. That said, we got outscored by two points. But we didn’t see the drastic give up 10, 12 extra points that we have in these other games.”
Mensah had six points during a 14-0 run that carried the Aztecs to a 29-10 lead with 5:47 left before halftime. Seiko made two 3-pointers, including a 27-footer to cap the run just before a timeout. An SDSU team manager who goes to the scorer’s table to get stats during timeouts was whistled for a technical for putting his thumb and pinkie up to his ear as if to say, “Dial up a 3,” and BSU’s Max Rice made both free throws.
Dutcher said he didn’t see it, but figured the ref probably thought the manager was taunting BSU.
“I’m glad it wasn’t at the end of a two-point game and glad we had a cushion,” Dutcher said. “No technical is good, but I’m sure he’ll have a memory for the rest of his life.”
The combination of SDSU’s defense and the absence of Shaver was too much for the Broncos. BSU shot only 33.3% in the first half and was called for a 10-second violation late in the first half. The Aztecs blocked three shots in the first 20 minutes, two by Aguek Arop and one by Mensah.
Mensah blocked a shot with three minutes left that set up a slam dunk by Johnson on an alley-oop pass from Seiko for a 70-50 lead.
Mensah drew 10 fouls and made 9 of 12 free throws.
“It’s because he was aggressive,” Dutcher said. “Some of them were because we threw it to him, and two or three of them were because he was going to the offensive glass and they had to push him to box him out. I thought he played as good a game as he’s played all year tonight.”
BSU shot only 36.5% from the field, while SDSU shot 51%.
Boise State: The Broncos clearly missed Shaver, who besides being third on the team in scoring at 13.2 points was leading the Broncos with 6.3 rebounds and had a team-high 79 assists.
San Diego State: It’ll be touch-and-go whether the Aztecs remain in the AP Top 25. After popping back into the poll on Monday, the Aztecs lost 75-66 at Nevada on Tuesday night.
Boise State hosts Wyoming a week from Saturday night.
SDSU visits Utah State on Wednesday night.
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