For the first 10 minutes, the San Diego State Aztecs were in control. It was all downhill from there.
Syracuse, playing in its comfort zone as a double-digit seed, blew the Aztecs out in a 78-62 First Round rout that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated.
The 6 seed Aztecs have amassed a 53-6 record over the last two seasons, including a 14-game win streak coming into Friday night’s matchup against the 11 seed Syracuse Orange. Featuring Mountain West Player of the Year Matt Mitchell and all-conference second-teamer Jordan Schakel — one of the top three-point marksmen in the nation — the Aztecs looked to build off of an abrupt, disappointing end to their promising 2019-20 season.
As expected in a matchup between two of the better offenses in the NCAA Tournament, this game was fast-paced and both teams were launching with confidence from beyond the arc. Schakel missed his first four three-point attempts, but managed to can a pair of triples that helped the Aztecs to an early lead as the half eclipsed the 10-minute mark.
Syracuse’s 2-3 zone rattled San Diego State as the half went on. Most of its looks were contested, and the ones that were not often came off-the-dribble or in transition. The Aztecs took 20 three-pointers in the first half and only converted three, shooting just 7-31 (22.6%) from the field overall.
Buddy Boeheim scored every Orange bucket for over 10 minutes to power them into the lead, and the Aztecs couldn’t get into their offense on the other end. An 18-0 run to close out the half from Cuse sent the Aztecs into the locker room down 32-18. Shackel went into the break with six points on 2-6 shooting from long-range.
Schakel knocked down a three at the start of the second half to end a 20-0 run from Syracuse and give the Aztecs their first points in 10:30 of game time. Their offense did a better job penetrating the middle of the zone and forcing the defense to make decisions, and Mitchell started to come on a bit, but San Diego State just couldn’t string together anything successful on either end of the floor.
It’s unfortunate, because they defended every Orange player not named Boeheim (30 points) well, up until the game was already out of hand. San Diego State was only outscored by two points (46-44) in the second half and showed signs of life in the last handful of minutes, but going cold for such a long stretch in the first half ultimately doomed them.
Syracuse hit a lot of threes, Schakel (17 points, 6-16 FG) and Mitchell (17 points, 8-19 FG) struggled to get going on offense, and the Aztecs’ role-players were stifled; Trey Pulliam was the team’s third-leading scorer with eight points (3-7 FG). San Diego State has been the beneficiary of games like these before — the Aztecs know a thing or two about getting hot from three-point land. Friday, it just didn’t go their way.