SAN DIEGO (AP) — First a win at BYU and then finally, a win against pesky Grand Canyon.
It’s been a big five-day stretch for San Diego State, which dominated inside and outside against Grand Canyon to win 86-61 Tuesday night. Malachi Flynn and Nathan Mensah each scored 14 points.
KJ Feagin added 13 points for SDSU (3-0), which was coming off a big 76-71 win at former conference rival BYU on Saturday.
Grand Canyon (0-3) had won its previous two games against the Aztecs in San Diego, plus the most recent game in the series, a 76-72 victory in Phoenix on Dec. 7, 2016.
“Coach Dutch (Brian Dutcher) was really on edge coming into this game,” Feagin said. “I knew he wanted this win. Coach Dave (Velasquez) talked about how we'd never beat them before and being a part of the team that got the win at BYU, now let's turn around and get Grand Canyon, so I'm happy that we accomplished both missions.”
Dutcher said the win was “very satisfying. We knew that we'd lost, since we've been here, Coach (Steve) Fisher and I, twice to Grand Canyon, both important, critical games. At the time it doesn't seem that way but when the season finishes up you have that loss on your record and we knew it hurt us. We wanted to come out and play at a high level because we knew they were a very good opponent.”
Dutcher succeeded Fisher as head coach after the 2016-17 season.
Leading 15-14, SDSU got hot from inside and outside and raced to a 30-18 lead. Matt Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and a fall-away jumper during the big run.
The Aztecs twice hit consecutive 3-pointers in the first half. Feagin and Mitchell did it early on and then Adam Seiko and Keshad Johnson did it to give SDSU a 36-22 lead with six minutes before halftime.
GCU went scoreless for the final five minutes of the first half as SDSU jumped to a 40-24 lead.
“Offensively when you have 35 baskets and 25 assists, you're playing the game the right way,” Dutcher said. “Overall, offensively we shared the ball as well as we have all year. We ended up outrebounding them for the game, which pleased me.”
Flynn had nine assists and Feagin had seven.
“I'm proud of the way we played,” Feagin said. “I think it was right in our game plan and coaches were preaching that to us at halftime, just to keep sharing the ball.”
Lorenzo Jenkins scored 15 for GCU, while Jovan Blacksher Jr. had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Isiah Brown and Carlos Johnson had 10 points each.
“We’re not going to turn this around anytime soon until they figure it out,” GCU coach Dan Majerle said. “It’s just not good enough. We’re not tough enough, we’re not playing hard enough, we’re not playing disciplined enough. Just very disappointed. We have stretches where we play well, and then we go away from it.”
SDSU had a 21-point lead early in the second half before GCU closed to 11.
“We knew they had a run in them and they put a little run in the second half but we kind of withstood it and kind of maintained it for a while, then built the lead back,” Dutcher said.
Grand Canyon: Majerle was unhappy with his players most of the night. To make things worse, Mitchell made a nice shot during SDSU’s big run and then said something to the former NBA player, who jumped out of his seat. A referee said, “I’ll take care of this,” and whistled Mitchell for a technical. “He just made a shot, like any college athlete does, and turns around and acts like he’s Michael Jordan,” Majerle said. “Nobody said anything to him. Nice turnaround jumper. Very nice. Very impressive. Good. It’s just the culture of kids today.”
Said Dutcher: “I told Matt, ‘Don’t do it again.’ Emotion’s part of the game and I want it played emotionally but we have to play smart. I know Dan wasn’t very happy. I wouldn’t be either so I can understand that.”
San Diego State: The Aztecs are off to their first 3-0 start since their NCAA Tournament season of 2014-15. It has advanced to the NCAAs each of the last three times it started 3-0.
Grand Canyon hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday night.
San Diego State visits crosstown rival San Diego on Wednesday night. The Toreros stunned the Aztecs by 12 points at Viejas Arena last season.
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