Arkansas to open against Louisville in Maui Invitational

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Arkansas will face Louisville in the opening round of a loaded 2022 Maui Invitational bracket.

The eight-team bracket announced for the November event will include six teams that went to the 2022 NCAA Tournament, including three that reached the Sweet 16.

Arizona faces Cincinnati in the opening round after reaching the Sweet 16 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season. Texas Tech, another Sweet 16 team last season, plays Creighton and San Diego State faces Ohio State in the tournament’s return to the Lahaina Civic Center on Nov. 21-23.

The 2020 tournament was held in Asheville, North Carolina, and last year’s was played in Las Vegas.

Arkansas has reached the Elite Eight the past two seasons under coach Eric Musselman.

Creighton rallies, gets 72-69 OT victory over San Diego St

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Trey Alexander converted a go-ahead, three-point play late in overtime, and Creighton rallied for a 72-69 victory over San Diego State in an NCAA Tournament opener Thursday night.

The Bluejays hadn’t led since the first five minutes of the game when Alexander, who also had the tying bucket late in regulation, drove right and was fouled on the layup. The free throw put Creighton ahead 71-69 with 1:08 remaining.

Down by two, the Aztecs had the ball with 4.3 second left when Matt Bradley inbounded to Aguek Arop, then ran around him for the handoff. Bradley lost control of the ball before getting a shot off, and Creighton secured it with 0.8 to to go.

Alexander scored 18 points, and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 16 points and 10 rebounds before leaving with an apparent left leg injury in overtime.

The ninth-seeded Bluejays (23-11) will play Saturday against the winner between Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, and Texas Southern. Creighton reached the Sweet 16 last year.

Chad Baker-Mazara scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half for the Aztecs (23-9), who were in position for their first tournament win since 2015. Gus Bradley added 15.

Bradley had a chance to give San Diego State the lead on free throws with 6.4 seconds left in regulation when Alex O’Connell fouled him on a drive. Bradley missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Arthur Kaluma dribbled the length of the court before lofting an air ball from the baseline as time expired.

The Aztecs had led by at least five points since the middle of the first half when O’Connell hit just the second 3-pointer of the game for Creighton to get the Bluejays within four just inside the two-minute mark.

After a steal led to a layup from Kalkbrenner, Creighton forced another turnover before getting two shots blocked at the other end. The Bluejays thought they had the tying basket on another steal after the second block, but an official ruled San Diego State called timeout.

That ruling was reversed on replay, and Alexander hit the tying layup with 11 seconds to go.

Kalkbrenner went down and grimaced after a posting up Arop as they made contact with each other early in overtime. The 7-foot-1 sophomore got up, tried to take a couple of steps and went back down, holding his left knee. After several minutes, Kalkbrenner was helped off the floor without putting weight on his left leg.

Baker-Mazara had a bucket and a three-point play during a 7-2 run that gave the Aztecs their first double-digit lead in the first half, then converted a four-point play to get the margin back to double digits at 27-15.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Blue Jays missed their first 10 3-point tries before Arthur Kaluma hit one to get them within five with 4:33 remaining. Creighton finished 2 of 14 from deep after coming in ranked 313th out of 350 teams beyond the arc. But O’Connell, who had 15 points, hit a big one late in regulation.

San Diego State: Nathan Mensah, the defensive player of the year in the Mountain West Conference, wasn’t much of a factor because of foul trouble. He picked up his fourth early in the second half, then his fifth.

Bradley, Aztecs hand No. 20 Colorado State first loss, 79-49

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego State had just blown out previously undefeated No. 20 Colorado State when coach Brian Dutcher said the Aztecs are still trying to find their rhythm and that their best basketball is still ahead.

That’s a scary thought, especially if the Aztecs continue to play defense like they did Saturday.

Matt Bradley scored 26 points and the short-handed Aztecs raced past the Rams 79-49 in a game that wasn’t supposed to be played until March 1. Chad Baker-Mazara added 14 points for SDSU, (10-3, 2-0 Mountain West), which outscored the Rams 43-17 in the second half for its largest margin of victory ever against a ranked team.

Colorado State had been one of three undefeated teams left in Division I coming into Saturday. But the Rams were held to just 27.9% shooting from the field and were outrebounded 38-21. The Aztecs also blocked eight of the Rams’ shots.

“It’s just our culture,” Dutcher said. “We just say from Day 1 when you get here, `You’re going to defend and rebound if you’re going to play at San Diego State.’ That’s it. You have to defend and rebound. And we don’t use being short-handed as an excuse. I tell them, `I never worry about who I don’t have. I’ve just got to get the ones I do have ready to play.”‘

Isaiah Stevens had 19 and David Roddy 17 for Colorado State.

Lamont Butler, who returned from a broken wrist, had 11 for SDSU while Aguek Arop and Keshad Johnson had 10 apiece.

“When we score like that, I mean it is hard to beat us,” Butler said. “Every game we’re going to come out with a high defensive mentality. It’s what we do. It’s our culture. If we play together on the offensive end, it’s going to be hard to beat us, for sure.”

The Aztecs were scheduled to play Nevada on Saturday but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Wolf Pack. The Rams (11-1, 1-1) were supposed to have played at Boise State on Friday night, but that game also was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The Mountain West adjusted the schedule on Wednesday and sent the Rams to San Diego.

Bradley, a senior transfer from California, came on strong late in the first half and stayed hot in the second half in his highest-scoring game of the season. He hit consecutive 3-pointers to help the Aztecs extend a four-point halftime lead to 40-34, and just a few minutes later made consecutive turnaround jumpers to push the lead to 49-36.

“Matt Bradley was sensational,” Dutcher said. “He got to his spot and he was shooting contested shots over people, foul line, 3-pointers, mid-post. He was just going to work.”

Bradley hit a 3-pointer to give SDSU a 19-12 lead with just more than nine minutes left in the first half. The Rams came back to tie it several times, the last at 30-30 on two free throws by Roddy with 2:03 left. Bradley then hit a jumper to put the Aztecs ahead and then had a layup right before the buzzer to give him 14 points at the break.

Baker-Mazara scored seven straight points late in the game – on consecutive dunks and then a 3-pointer. The first dunk was set up when Butler came flying in to block a 3-pointer by John Tonje and the second one came after Baker-Mazara’s steal.

BIG PICTURE

Colorado State: The Rams appeared to be at close to full strength. They have been ranked in the AP Top 25 for four straight weeks, a first in school history. The last time they were in the AP poll was late December 2014.

San Diego State: Butler returned after missing five games with a broken left wrist. But Adam Seiko and Joshua Tomaic, regulars in the rotation, were among several members of the SDSU program who missed the game due to the COVID-19 protocol (including walk-ons and managers).

“Coach always says, regardless of who’s here, as long as we’ve got five dudes we’re going to get the job done,” Bradley said. “We had more than five, and with the group we had, we definitely dialed in. We knew we were counted out in this game and we trusted each other and we counted on each other and competed. I’m really happy for our guys.”

UP NEXT

Colorado State: Hosts Utah State on Wednesday.

San Diego State: At Wyoming on Wednesday.

Boeheim pours in 30, No. 11 seed Orange rout Aztecs 78-62

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INDIANAPOLIS — The decades-old zone defense of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim claimed another frustrated victim Friday night.

One of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, too.

The No. 11 seed Orange held sixth-seeded San Diego State without a field goal for nearly a quarter of the game, sweet-shooting Buddy Boeheim hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 30 points, and Syracuse cruised to a 78-62 victory inside Hinkle Fieldhouse and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Boeheim finished 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and 11 of 15 from the field. Marek Dolezaj added 11 points as Syracuse (17-9) advanced to play third-seeded West Virginia, an 84-67 winner over No. 14 seed Morehead State, for a spot in the Sweet 16.

“We want to keep going, keep building off this,” the younger Boeheim said. “We know there’s still a long road ahead of us. It’s a great feeling. We have a day tomorrow to get a practice in and we’re right back Sunday.”

The Orange were trailing 18-14 midway through the first half when they clamped down on defense, holding San Diego State (23-5) without a field goal the rest of the half. And when the Aztecs threatened to trim their deficit to less than 10 early in the second half, the son of the longtime Syracuse coach was there to provide an answer.

Boeheim hit three quick 3-pointers, one of them curling off a screen and falling away, to put the game out of reach.

“Buddy just had one of those games like he’s been having lately,” Jim Boeheim said. “I never had one of those so I don’t know how it feels, but it looks like the basket is wide and he just made some great shots.”

Jordan Schakel had 17 points for the Aztecs, but the nation’s third-best 3-point shooter was just 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Matt Mitchell also had 17 points on 8-of-19 shooting for the Mountain West champs.

“We had a lot of great memories over the years. This is not how we wanted to end it,” said Schakel, choking up a bit. “In a couple days, I’ll be able to look back and be grateful. But right now, this one doesn’t feel good.”

San Diego State made it clear from the moment it jacked up three 3-pointers on its first couple trips down the floor that the plan was to break Syracuse’s decades-old 2-3 zone by shooting right over top of it.

Problem is the Aztecs didn’t make many.

Beginning with Boeheim’s own 3-pointer with 9:17 left, the Aztecs never scored again in the first half. They missed their final 10 attempts from beyond the arc, finished 3 of 20 from the 3-point line in the first half, and even missed the front end of a one-and-one with a few seconds left before the break.

“Obviously we knew we needed to make 3s in order to compete in this game,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “When you’re missing them, the defense starts shrinking in. It gets harder to drive.”

“Buddy Buckets” nearly outscored San Diego State by himself. Boeheim had 16 points as Syracuse built a 32-18 halftime lead; it was the fewest points Dutcher’s high-scoring, perimeter-oriented team had scored in a half all season.

Mitchell, the Mountain West player of the year, missed all five of his 3-point tries and was 1 of 9 from the field.

Schakel finally got a 3-pointer to go right out of halftime, giving the few San Diego State fans in the crowd a long-awaited reason to cheer. But the Aztecs promptly went into another long slump, and Boeheim and the rest of the Orange’s red-hot shooters continued to bury their own 3s, building a 56-30 lead before coasting to the finish.

“They played well. Offensively, obviously, we struggled to shoot the ball,” Dutcher said. “Their zone was very good. Coach Boeheim has had the success he’s had because he plays it better than anyone.”

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse kept its late-season momentum going Friday night. The Orange had won three of their last four games, beating North Carolina and Clemson, and took Virginia to the wire in a buzzer-beating loss in the ACC Tournament.

San Diego State hoped to make a deep run after its loaded 30-2 team last season missed out on a chance to play in the tournament. But the Aztecs looked nothing like the team that brought a 14-game win streak to Indianapolis, winning them by an average margin of 18.4 points, failing to break the Syracuse zone and wilting on the defensive end.

UP NEXT

The Orange will play the Mountaineers or Eagles on Sunday. Syracuse is 28-16 against West Virginia, its old Big East rival, and 3-0 against Morehead State with a win over the Eagles in the first round of the 1983 tournament.

No. 19 San Diego St. beats Utah St. 68-57 to win MWC title

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LAS VEGAS — San Diego State lost the last two Mountain West Tournament championship games to Utah State, and hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2018.

It was time to turn the tables Saturday.

Matt Mitchell scored 14 points to lead No. 19 San Diego State to a 68-57 victory over the Aggies to win the title and secure the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“I know the guys that were there last year definitely had it in mind,” said Mitchell, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “We kind of hoped that Utah State would be here so we could get our redemption.”

The Aztecs, who also won the regular-season championship, had lost six of their previous seven title game appearances.

It marked just the fifth time the No. 1 seed won the title in 22 years.

Nathan Mensah added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Aztecs, and Trey Pulliam also scored 10.

It marked the third straight tournament game the Aztecs had at least three players score in double figures. Six different players scored in double figures in the event, including Pulliam in all three games.

“Our depth was something that was important, and it paid off for us in the end,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “I think we had fresh legs down the stretch cause we could rest players. Everybody that plays for us contributes and it’s a different player every night.”

Junior center Neemias Queta led the Aggies with 18 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots. Justin Bean added 12 points and six rebounds.

San Diego State (23-4) snapped Utah State’s six-game winning streak, during which the Aggies (20-8) had allowed just 58.5 points per game. The Aztecs had their 58th point by the 5:53 mark of the second half.

Meanwhile, San Diego State held the Aggies to their second-lowest output of the season, 16.9 points below their season average of 73.9.

In a battle between the league’s two most stringent defenses, San Diego State exhibited its dominance with a 10-2 edge in steals. The turnover margin was seven, with Utah State committing 16 costly turnovers the Aztecs turned into 14 points.

Already having suffered a regular-season sweep by Utah State, the Aztecs wasted no time at distancing themselves from the second-seeded Aggies by using a 6-0 run to start the second half and take a 34-24 lead and never really looked back.

The first half was eerily similar to last year’s championship game, which saw the teams combine to shoot 19 of 58 (32%) in the first half while scoring 50 points. In this game, the teams were 21 for 57 (36.8%) and combined to score 52 pts in the first half.

Outside of Queta, the Aggies couldn’t get much going with their offense, as the 7-footer had 12 of the team’s 24 points. While Queta was 4 of 6 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, the rest of the Aggies were just 5 of 18 (27.7%) from the field. Utah State was also plagued with turnovers, committing eight under San Diego State’s tenacious defense.

“There’s just a play here and a play there that can just change the game,” Utah State coach Craig Smith said. “This time around they made just a few more of those than we did. A couple of catastrophic turnovers . we just jumped and threw it, and they get a steal and go the other way. Those are big time game-changers and momentum-changers.”

Though the Aztecs weren’t as offensively efficient as Utah State in the first half, hitting just 12 of 33 (36.4%), they got better balance with six shooters contributing on the stat sheet.

With the loss, the Aggies now await their fate for a bid into the NCAA Tournament. Though Utah State has looked every bit like a team that deserves a bid, there’s never a guarantee with the selection committee as the Mountain West has been a conference denied at-large bids mainly due to its lack of Quad 1 wins. The Aggies have just two Quad 1 wins and one Quad 2 victory. It also has its two regular season wins over San Diego State.

“The top of this league is very strong,” Dutcher said. “Hopefully were a multi-bid league. But I know when those doors close and they get in that room, over the years the Power of 5s have won the day. Hopefully that changes tomorrow.”

BIG PICTURE:

Utah State: The Aggies came into the game ranked 22nd in the nation with 12.6 offensive rebounds per game, and with 136 more boards on the offensive glass than their opponents. Saturday they finished with 12.

San Diego State: Saturday marked the fifth time this season Mensah had at least eight points and eight rebounds. It was the first time he had accomplished the feat since Feb. 8.

UP NEXT

Utah State: Hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid

San Diego State: NCAA Tournament

No. 19 San Diego State beats UNLV 71-62 for 2nd MWC title

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LAS VEGAS — Winning their 11th straight game and the Mountain West Conference regular-season title was just another step for the No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs.

“The most meaningful basketball is still ahead of us,” coach Brian Dutcher said after SDSU beat UNLV 71-62 Wednesday behind 19 points from Matt Mitchell and 16 from Jordan Schakel.

Nathan Mensah scored 14 points for the Aztecs (20-4, 14-3 MWC), who used a 14-0 run spanning halftime to take control. They get a week of rest before returning to Las Vegas as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

With its NCAA Net Ranking at a season-high No. 17, SDSU appears to have done enough to get an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament if it doesn’t win the conference tourney and secure the MWC’s automatic bid.

“What this team accomplished this season was really special because of the circumstances we had to do it in,” Dutcher said. “We started back in September with one coach in gloves and a mask, one basketball, one player, and we couldn’t rebound the ball for the player. And to think a few months later we’re celebrating a conference championship. It’s a credit to everybody in our program.”

The Aztecs gave Dutcher an ice shower afterward. “I’m still picking ice out of my ear,” the coach said.

The Aztecs controlled their own destiny during the last week after the MWC awarded them a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico for a series that wasn’t played because the Lobos had injuries but no COVID-19 cases. Those forfeit victories don’t count in SDSU’s overall or formal conference record, but will count for seeding and conference championship implications. SDSU swept two home games against Boise State during the weekend.

David Jenkins Jr. scored 32 points for UNLV (11-13, 8-9), while leading scorer Bryce Hamilton was held to nine points, nine under his average, and fouled out with 1:41 to go.

SDSU opened a 16-point lead in the second half before UNLV cut it to eight points. The Aztecs responded with a 9-0 burst for a 62-45 lead, with Mensah getting a slam dunk and making four free throws and Schakel hitting a 3. Schakel finished with a career-high nine rebounds, just missing his first career double-double.

SDSU scored the final seven points of the first half as part of a 14-5 run and led at halftime for the 12th straight game, 35-28.

The Aztecs continued the run by scoring the first seven points of the second half to run the lead to 42-28. Schakel hit a 3-pointer, Mensah scored inside and Mitchell had a nice spin move for a layup, drew a foul and made the three throw.

Trailing 23-21, the Aztecs got five points in five seconds. Schakel hit a 3-pointer and Mitchell stole the inbound pass and dunked for a 26-23 lead.

UNLV tied it at 28 when Moses Wood hit a 3-pointer and Hamilton made a baseline jumper. SDSU then closed the half on a 3-pointer and two free throws by Schakel and two free throws by Adam Seiko.

UNLV’s David Jenkins Jr. had 14 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers. He made three 3-pointers in the first four minutes for UNLV’s first nine points.

SDSU was 30-2 last year and most likely would have received a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s nice after everything we’ve been through,” Schakel said. “It’s been a long, long journey. Hopefully we’ll make it to the tournament and play for the guys who didn’t get the chance last year. It would have been really special last year.”

BIG PICTURE

SDSU: Mitchell, a senior, moved past three players and into sixth place on the Aztecs’ all-time scoring list with 1,408 points. … This is the first time in school history the Aztecs have won consecutive outright regular-season conference titles.

UNLV: Hamilton came in leading the Runnin’ Rebels with 18.5 points per game, but had a tough time getting going. He had only four points at halftime while committing three fouls.

UP NEXT

SDSU has seven days off before the quarterfinals of the MWC tournament on March 11.

UNLV ends its regular season at Wyoming on Saturday night.