BYU Travels To Face Veteran Rival In No. 19 San Diego State

Nov 11, 2022, 12:15 AM | Updated: 12:15 am
BYU Basketball, Fousseyni Traore, Non-Conference...
BYU basketball will take on San Diego State in their lone true road game of the non-conference schedule in 2022-23 season. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The “new and young” of BYU basketball in 2022-23 showed itself in the win over Idaho State. BYU squeaked by the Bengals with a 60-56 win thanks to a game-winner from Spencer Johnson.

What’s on deck in game two?

A rivalry game against a veteran and nationally-ranked San Diego State squad in Viejas Arena. The Aztecs (1-0) are ranked No. 19 in the AP Top 25 poll. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. (MT) tonight on the Mountain West Network and KSL NewsRadio.

“I would prefer if it was game 10, especially with this new, young group,” said BYU basketball coach Mark Pope. “We know this season is about us getting better and about growing. This group that doesn’t really know what the highest level of basketball looks and feels like –for the most part– we have a couple of guys that do. But for the [players] that [don’t], we’re gonna get to find out in game two. We’re gonna really find out.”

The BYU/San Diego State series has become an annual matchup since Mark Pope took over as head coach in 2019. Former BYU coach Dave Rose inked a home-and-home with Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher in 2018 and the two WAC and Mountain West rivals have been playing each year since.

BYU has come out victorious in the past two meetings. One of those wins was at an empty Viejas Arena in 2020 when the Aztecs were also ranked in the top 25 polls.

“I’m super excited,” Pope said. “I love great college venues. And this Viejas Arena is a great college venue. There are no two ways about it. The building is great, but their fan base is ornery, creative, disruptive, and crazy. It’s what you live for as a college basketball player is to be able to walk into a gym like that and play. So it’s super exciting.”

San Diego State’s bench boss Brian Dutcher, who is in his sixth season with the Aztecs, loves the series with BYU. This year’s meeting is the first of a two-game series that will return to Provo in the 2023-24 season, BYU’s first as a member of the Big 12 Conference.

“Well, we’re excited to get a rivalry game on the schedule again,” said SDSU coach Brian Dutcher. “BYU, San Diego State, both fan bases love it. We love it as coaches. Mark Pope and I have spent a lot of time talking about this game, trying to keep it on the schedule because we know how valuable it is to both teams.”

SDSU boasts an experienced roster

While BYU rolls out a new and inexperienced roster, the same can’t be said for San Diego State. Some of the players on the Aztecs have been part of all three of the previous meetings against Mark Pope’s BYU program. That includes SDSU’s 6-foot-10 forward Nathan Mensah, who is one of the nation’s top rim protectors, and defensive ace Adam Seiko off the bench.

“This is a veteran, veteran team, and they’re big, and they are physical. So that’s really imposing,” said Pope. “They really have a chance this year. They are so old, and they’re so big, and they’re so experienced.”

Along with veteran players like Mensah, and Seiko, the Aztecs also return forward Matt Bradley, plus they brought in Seattle U transfer Darrion Trammell.

“This Trammell is a problem,” Pope said. “He’s super creative offensively, kind of a three-level scorer and super creative scorer and can make bad shots. He’s a big assist and steals guy. At Seattle, he was kind of the stats stuffer.”

Measuring stick opportunity for BYU basketball

Friday night will be a great measuring stick opportunity for BYU to see where they are at with this young group.

“It gives us a big learning opportunity to see where we’re at,” said BYU freshman guard Dallin Hall. “It gives ourselves an opportunity to prove ourselves early. For me, I’ve always wanted to play against the best. I’m super excited for next year to go to the Big 12. But we’ve got to take care of business this year first. You love every opportunity to play against the best. It shows where you’re at and it helps get you ready for the rest of the season.”

One of the keys for BYU basketball in this game will be crashing the glass. BYU has an undersized team this year. Sophomore Fousseyni Traore plays well beyond his 6-foot-6 frame and is a relentless force on rebounds for BYU. But he’s only one man. Rebounds and limiting the Aztecs will be a significant key in this one for Pope’s squad.

Tonight’s game is the only true road game BYU will play this season in non-conference play.

Rudi Williams takes on the Aztecs

BYU beat out San Diego State to land the services of grad transfer guard Rudi Williams. Williams took official visits to both programs. He started at point guard for BYU in their opening night victory over Idaho State, scoring seven points in 22 minutes of action and pulling down four rebounds. SDSU’s Brian Dutcher gave high praise to Williams’ game.

“Well, obviously, Rudi made an official visit here to San Diego State before deciding on BYU, so he’s a lights-out shooter. He’s a really good playmaker, which he’s doing more of from BYU,” Dutcher said. “To be honest with you, I don’t think he’s out looking for a shot right now. He’s trying to get his teammates involved. But I think as the season gets going, and he gets more comfortable, I think he’ll be hunting a shot a little bit more, which be a good thing for them. And for him.”

BYU/San Diego State: Projected Starting Lineups

BYU (1-0)

G – Rudi Williams, 6-3, Sr. (Coastal Carolina transfer)

G – Spencer Johnson, 6-5, Jr.

G – Jaxson Robinson, 6-7, Soph. (Arkansas transfer)

F – Gideon George, 6-6, Sr.

C – Foussyeni Traore, 6-6, Soph.

No. 19 San Diego State (1-0)

G – Darrion Trammell, 5-10, Sr. (Seattle U transfer)

G – Lamont Butler, 6-2, Jr.

F – Matt Bradley, 6-4, Sr.

F – Keshad Johnson, 6-7, Sr.

C – Nathan Mensah, 6-10, Sr.

BYU vs. No. 19 San Diego State

Date: November 11, 2022

Tip: 8:30 p.m. (MT)

Location: Viejas Arena

TV: Mountain West Network

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame begins at 7 p.m.)

Series: BYU leads 50-26

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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