No. 7 SDSU 68, Nevada 55
SAN DIEGO — San Diego State home basketball games are starting to feel like they did back in the Kawhi Leonard era, when a packed Viejas Arena rocked and the Aztecs reached the Sweet 16 for the first time.
This time, it’s a trio of transfers leading the No. 7 Aztecs back into national prominence. New Zealander Yanni Wetzell stepped up with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds Saturday night for SDSU, which got hot in the second half and beat Nevada 68-55 to remain the nation’s only undefeated team.
The Aztecs pulled within one of the best opening streak in school history, a 20-0 run led by Leonard in 2010-11. That team finished a school-best 34-3.
With fellow big man Nathan Mensah missing his sixth straight game with a respiratory ailment, Wetzell had his best game with SDSU.
“I was just that much more extra aggressive,” said Wetzell, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt. “We were down a couple at half and I knew that as a fifth-year senior I had to step up and try to lead these guys a little. I was just trying to be as aggressive as I can on the boards.”
Wetzell’s only mistake, it seemed, was an inadvertent tip-in that gave Nevada its only points during a 17-2 Aztecs run in the second half.
“Technically he had 19 points; just two for the other team,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher cracked.
Malachi Flynn scored 14 points for San Diego State (19-0, 8-0 Mountain West), and Jordan Schakel had 12. Matt Mitchell added 11 points.
Trailing 35-33 at halftime, SDSU changed up its ballscreen defense and staggered Nevada to send a charge through Viejas Arena.
Jalen Harris, the Mountain West’s second-leading scorer, had 16 of his 19 points in the first half for Nevada (11-8, 4-3), which withered offensively in the second half. Jazz Johnson scored 13.
Nevada shot 14.7% in the second half and 28.1% for the game.
SDSU trailed 35-33 at halftime, but grabbed control in the opening minutes of the second half. Wetzell fed Schakel for a 3, Mitchell had a reverse layup and Flynn made a layup for a 40-35 lead, forcing Alford to take a timeout and firing up the crowd.
Nevada tied it at 40 when Johnson made a layup and then hit a 3.
But SDSU quickly jumped to an eight-point lead on Mitchell’s bucket off a rebound, a free throw by KJ Feagin, a corner 3 by Mitchell and a jumper by Wetzell.
SDSU shut down the Wolf Pack after that.
It was just the second time this season SDSU trailed at halftime.
Nevada 68, Wyoming 67
RENO — Harris scored 20 points and his driving layup with nine seconds left carried Nevada to a thrilling 68- 67 win over Wyoming last Tuesday night.
The lead changed four times in the final 51 seconds. Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado missed a floating jumper to the right of the basket with three seconds left before Kwane Marble II’s lunging put back attempt fell short as time expired.
Maldonado’s jump shot with 15 seconds to go gave the Cowboys a 67-66 lead before Harris’ heroics. Ten seconds before that, Nisre Zouzoua threw down a dunk and Nevada (11-7, 4-2 Mountain West Conference) led 66-65. Hunter Thompson buried a 3-pointer for Wyoming (5-14, 0-7) with 51 seconds left.
Jazz Johnson scored 16 for the Wolfpack and Zouzoua 12.
Maldonado scored 17 for Wyoming, Thompson 16 and Kenny Foster and Jake Hendricks each scored 10.