For a long stretch of the first half against scrappy Cal Poly, San Diego State did not look like the nation’s 15th-ranked team.
The Aztecs missed shots inside, had free throws clanging off the rim and big man Yanni Wetzell, and air-balled 3-point shots guarding KJ Feagin.
And then the stunner: The Mustangs ran back from a 10-point deficit to take a 23-22 lead in the Viejas Arena and hush the crowd.
That’s when eventually SDSU woke up. Wetzell began a 9-0 run that closed the first half and the Aztecs won 73-57 in nine seasons to continue their best start.
Malachi Flynn scored 14 points and for the Aztecs (13-0), who are one of three unbeaten national teams, Wetzell and Jordan Schakel contributed 12 points each.
“We played a bit sloppy,” said Wetzell, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt. “It was a close game with about two minutes to go in the middle and then we realized we really had to step it up a bit. The pace picked up, the hustle picked up and we went into the middle seven or eight. We had a good half-time chat and came out firing in the second half.”
SDSU, Auburn, and Liberty are the only undefeated teams in the country.
SDSU opened it up early in the first half after leading only 31-23 in the half-time. Flynn made two long 3-pointers, one of which was banked in and Feagin hit a shot from behind the arc as well. To help the Aztecs take a 50-31 lead, Wetzell, a New Zealander, made three close-in shots.
Kyle Colvin scored 13 points and the Mustangs had 12 points for Junior Ballard. There were 12 rebounds for Alimamy Koroma.
The Aztecs rocked off an early 18-8 lead and let the Mustangs go-ahead 23-22 on the two free throws of Koroma with 2:41 ahead of halftime. In shocking the Aztecs, the Mustangs even got3-pointers from Colvin and Ballard.
In the final 1:40, SDSU turned it on to take a half-time lead of 31-23. Koroma rebounded after Matt Mitchell missed a 3-pointer, but Wetzell stole and scored the ball. Until Mitchell followed Flynn’s missed 3 with a slam dunk, Flynn and Schakel had layups, they were fouled and made the free throw.
Schakel said the steal and basket from Wetzell “gave us a great deal of energy. I heard the crowd re-enter it. I think Yanni’s play was the game for us that really helped us go. “In the first half, SDSU fired just 40%.