SAN DIEGO (AP) — After San Diego State was routed at Utah State on Tuesday night, coach Brian Dutcher told the Aztecs to treat the next opponent, San Jose State, like the Golden State Warriors.
It was total coach speak, but it worked against the last-place team in the Mountain West Conference.
Jeremy Hemsley scored 15 points, Nathan Mensah had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Jalen McDaniels added 13 points to lead San Diego State to an 84-56 victory over San Jose State on Saturday night, keeping the Aztecs in position to play for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
“That’s only something that a coach would say, but I wanted our level of play to go up,” Dutcher said. “I wanted us to play super hard, put everything into this game. I didn’t want to take an opponent lightly. I thought we came out ready to play.”
Devin Watson and Jordan Schakel had 12 points apiece for the Aztecs (19-10, 11-5 Mountain West), who clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. If SDSU beats Fresno State at home on Wednesday night, it will clinch the No. 3 seed.
It was the second double-double for Mensah, a freshman. McDaniels, a redshirt sophomore, fell one rebound shy of his eighth double-double in 15 games.
Zach Chappell had 14 points, Michael Steadman 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Seneca Knight 12 points for San Jose State (4-24, 1-15), which has lost 18 of its last 19.
The Aztecs didn’t have any trouble with the Spartans. McDaniels scored nine points in helping them take a 19-9 lead, including a 3-pointer, a jumper in the paint, a dunk to finish a fast break and a nice left-handed layup.
Later in the first half, McDaniels and Nathan Mensah each blocked a shot during a Spartans possession and the Aztecs responded with a fast break that resulted with Devin Watson feeding Hemsley for a dunk.
SDSU led 41-29 at halftime.
The Aztecs were coming off a 70-54 loss at Utah State in which they shot only 36.2 percent and were outrebounded 44-30.
Up until then, Dutcher had told his players that they could still win the regular-season title, although “it would have taken a perfect storm to do it.”
Going into the Utah State game, SDSU had won five straight and eight of nine.
“I told them after the Utah State game, we know we didn’t play great, but I don’t want them to lose the swagger that we developed,” Dutcher said. “I didn’t want to come in there and beat them down because we lost a game. I want them confident. This time of the year, confidence is as important as anything. You have to believe you’re going to win games. So I don’t want them in there thinking we played horrible, we’re backsliding. We played a very good team.”
Utah State beat No. 12 Nevada 81-76 Saturday night to take the conference lead. San Diego State beat Utah State 68-63 on Feb. 2 and then-No. 6 Nevada 65-57 on Feb. 20, both at home.
San Diego State has won nine straight home games. Its last loss on Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena was on Dec. 29, when it was stunned 82-61 by Brown.
SDSU shot 48.5 percent, including making 14 of 33 3-pointers, while holding San Jose State to 32.2 percent.
“We just couldn’t make a shot today,” San Jose State coach Jean Prioleau said. “That happens. It is just a learning process for us and that’s all it comes down to. I’m proud of our team, proud of our guys and we are incrementally getting better. It is just not moving as fast as the masses want to see, but we are getting better.”
As for the Aztecs, “It’s getting late in the season and they are a really good team,” he said. “They are playing really well right now.”
San Jose State: The Spartans were coming off an 89-82 victory against New Mexico that snapped a 17-game losing streak. They have won consecutive games only once this season, at home against Bethune Cookman on Dec. 6 and Northern Arizona on Dec. 15.
San Diego State: The Aztecs improved to 8-0 in home MWC games. If they beat Fresno State here on Wednesday night, they’ll finish with a perfect home league record for just the second time in the conference’s 20-season history.
San Jose State hosts Wyoming in its home finale on Wednesday night.
San Diego State finishes its home schedule Wednesday night against Fresno State.