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Saturday, April 17, 2021

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Back-to-Back Mountain West Champions

For the first time in school history, the Aztecs have won consecutive outright regular-season conference titles.
By GoAztecs.com
 

“The most meaningful basketball is still ahead of us.”

Winning their 11th consecutive game and hoisting the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship was just another step for the No. 19-ranked San Diego State University men’s basketball team.

"The most meaningful basketball is still ahead of us," said head basketball coach Brian Dutcher after SDSU beat UNLV, 71-62, Wednesday night.

The Aztecs were led by senior Matt Mitchell’s 19 points, which moved him into sixth place on the Aztecs' all-time scoring list with 1,408 points. 

Senior Jordan Schakel added 16 points as the Aztecs won consecutive outright regular-season conference titles for the first time in school history.

SDSU (20-4, 14-3 Mountain West) returns to action on Thursday, March 11 as the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Conference Tournament in  hope of securing the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"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 controlled their own destiny during the last week after the conference awarded them a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico for a series that wasn't played due to the Lobos having injuries but no COVID-19 cases. The forfeit victories do not count in SDSU's overall or formal conference record, but count for seeding and conference championship implications. SDSU swept two home games against Boise State last weekend.

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. 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 to take a 62-45 lead.

SDSU was 30-2 last year and was in line to receive 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."