BYU Hosts No. 17 San Diego State For Another ‘Epic Battle’ In Rivalry
Nov 9, 2023, 1:41 PM
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball will take on San Diego State for the 78th meeting all-time on Friday night. It’s becoming an annual staple on the non-conference schedule for the two programs that were once WAC and Mountain West Conference rivals.
“I love the game so much, which is weird for me to say, we’re 2-2. But I love that game so much,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope.
San Diego State head basketball coach Brian Dutcher on #BYU matchup:
"Well, I must need my head examined. We're going to a place where we're 4-30 over San Diego State's career in basketball at BYU. But we're goin'."#BYUHoops
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) November 9, 2023
The two programs have returned to an annual matchup since 2018. They’ve staged some classic games in recent years. Last year’s contest in San Diego saw the Aztecs storm back from a four-point halftime time deficit to avoid the upset.
BYU’s season fizzled out to a year that finished with no postseason bid. San Diego State was down by five with five minutes to go in the National Championship game against UConn last year.
Both coaches enjoy the BYU/San Diego State rivalry
So what it shows is that anything can happen in the BYU/San Diego State matchup. That’s why the two programs love the game.
“‘Dutch’ (Brian Dutcher) is one of my favorite guys in the world,” Pope said. “Both of us were sitting in a space where we’re just desperately trying to get good games for the last four years. We would go to everybody and ask everybody and we were the only two people that would be like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do this!'”
Historically, San Diego State hasn’t fared well at BYU. The last visit to Provo in 2021 resulted in a 66-60 BYU victory. Before that, with San Diego State’s star-studded 2019-20 team nearly undefeated, the Aztecs pulled off a rare win in Provo in the early stages of Mark Pope’s tenure at BYU.
“Well, I must need my head examined. We’re going to a place where we’re 4-30 over San Diego State’s career in basketball at BYU,” said SDSU coach Brian Dutcher. “But we’re goin’.”
Future of the series is unknown after Friday night
The future of BYU/San Diego State after Friday is up in the air. BYU now resides in the Big 12 Conference and isn’t lacking for Quad 1/Quad 2 opportunities. Meanwhile, they also have other rivalries against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and Utah State that could be potential non-conference matchups to schedule.
But this matchup with the Aztecs might be the one worth keeping for the long haul. There’s a deep respect for the game from both programs.
“I like the game, I like the rivalry,” said Dutcher. “I know when they come here, the building is going to be full. When we go there, they’ll have 21,000. It will be electric in there.”
Some of the best moments in the history of the Marriott Center have come against San Diego State. No one will forget Jimmer Fredette taking the sports world by storm after taking down Kawhi Leonard’s Aztec team in 2011.
But it’s a great test to see how much progress BYU has made from last season.
“[Dutcher] has a Top 20 team again this year and every year, this turns into an epic battle,” said Mark Pope. “It really turns into a test of your manhood. And I love it. Our guys love it. We know that we will face the most physical, it’s a street fight from the tip. It turns into great basketball and it’s been a fun series and I can’t wait to get to it.”
Last year’s BYU team hung tight in many high-profile games, including against SDSU. But they couldn’t quite finish the job in most games. BYU coach Mark Pope made it a point of emphasis to retain his roster. He did that in the era of the Transfer Portal always being available. Despite the low expectations entering this season, Pope has quiet confidence about BYU, surprising people.
BYU’s success this season will be tied to shooting the three at a high level. Pope had the nation’s number-one three-point shooting team four years ago. Can they pull it off again? Well, early indications would show they are willing to rise and fire.
In the season-opening win over Houston Christian, BYU fired off 43 three-point attempts in the blowout win.
“It’s really important for us this year that we make teams guard us 50 by 27, not by 50 by 22,” said Pope. “That extra 250 feet on the court is going to make the difference whether we can be really functionally offensively.”
What to know about San Diego State
San Diego State defeated Cal State Fullerton in their season opener, 83-57. Jaedon LeDee led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Aztecs.
Longtime SDSU standouts Nathan Mensah, Matt Bradley, and Adam Seiko are no longer on Dutcher’s squad. But they replenished the roster with USC transfer guard/forward Reese Waters. Waters scored in his Aztec debut on Monday.
BYU basketball tidbits
- Dallin Hall (knee) played in the season-opener on Monday against Houston Christian but was in a reserve role off the bench. Will he make his first start of the season against SDSU?
- BYU continues to wait on a decision from the NCAA for a waiver on Kansas transfer Marcus Adams Jr. No timetable has been set. It doesn’t appear to be anytime soon.
BYU vs. No. 17 San Diego State
Date: Friday, November 10, 2023
Location: Marriott Center
TV/Stream: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Tip-off: 7 p.m. (MT)/6 p.m. (PT)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.
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