San Diego State 77-64 Air Force (Feb 6, 2024)

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — — Reese Waters scored 15 points, making five of San Diego State’s season-high 11 3-pointers, and the 24th-ranked Aztecs cruised to a 77-64 win over Air Force on Tuesday night.

The Aztecs (18-5, 7-3 Mountain West) took 5 1/2 minutes to settle in and grab their first lead, but once they did they never looked back. They broke open the game with a 13-0 first-half run and eventually led by 25 in winning their ninth straight over the Falcons (8-14, 1-9).

“I’m ecstatic to get out of here with a win,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.

To be in first place, too, as San Diego State joined No. 25 New Mexico, No. 22 Utah State and Boise State at the top of the conference standings.

The physical presence of Jaedon LeDee down low proved too much for Air Force to handle as he finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. For that, he can give a big assist to his outside shooters. The Aztecs were 11 of 22 from 3-point range.

“It’s going to open up the floor for Jaedon to have an easier time in the paint and not get doubled all the time,” Waters said of the team’s efficiency from long range.

San Diego State played hounding defense, too, and forced 11 turnovers in the first half — including three shot-clock infractions. But the Falcons cleaned things up after halftime, shooting 58.3% from the floor and committing just three turnovers. That allowed them to turn what looked like a blowout into a respectable margin by outscoring the Aztecs 44-32 in the second half.

“We’ve got to learn how to get better when the pressure’s on,” Air Force coach Joe Scott said. “We’ve got to learn how to really be good under pressure all the time. That’s learned behavior.”

Beau Becker and Jeffrey Mills both had 15 points to lead Air Force. Two of the Falcons’ top scorers, Rytis Petraitis and Ethan Taylor, were held to a combined 10 points. Petraitis fouled out trying to help contain LeDee.

Micah Parrish added 14 points for the Aztecs, who have back-to-back wins for the first time since early January. They led 45-20 at halftime and improved to 17-0 this season when leading at the break.

Aztecs forward Jay Pal was expected to start but came off the bench after arriving late to Colorado Springs. Pal, who played nearly 20 minutes, missed the flight due to an identification card mixup.

“He has a student ID and a social security card but he left his social security card,” Dutcher explained. “It was late enough we couldn’t get him out. So we got him on a flight the next morning and we got him here. But trust me, he’ll have both on the flight back tonight.”

The Falcons have no seniors or graduate transfers. It’s the program’s first senior-less team since 1987. What Scott has been able to do is develop a squad from scratch. Like sophomore guard/forward Kellan Boylan, who played a total of six minutes last year as a freshman. This season, he’s in the conference’s top 15 in rebounding, steals, blocks and minutes. He was limited Tuesday to 6:32 with a hip ailment.

BIG PICTURE

San Diego State: The Aztecs are a victory away from winning at least 19 games in 19 straight seasons.

Air Force: The Falcons fell to 4-90 against ranked teams. Their last win over a Top 25 opponent was March 9, 2013, against No. 12 New Mexico.

UP NEXT

San Diego State: Plays at Nevada on Friday.

Air Force: Will host Fresno State on Saturday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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