Forward Jaedon LeDee’s No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs BYU at Viejas Arena

Forward Jaedon LeDee’s No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs BYU at Viejas Arena

“The Show” student section was uncharacteristically big-hearted on its social media accounts in the lead-up to Friday night’s game at Viejas Arena between San Diego State and (allegedly) hated BYU, tweeting this earlier in the day: “Let’s have a great game today BYU, hope you play well.”

On Thursday it was: “We are very excited for the basketball game! It’s going to be a really fun one between two good teams.” It was followed by a smile emoji.

It was an unexpected approach from The Show, the conspicuous absence of bike helmets and polygamy signs, given its sharp, aggressive history with all things BYU and Latter Day Saints. Turn over a new leaf? Or some kind of reverse psychology?

Smile emojis? Really?

Whatever the reason, it produced an eerie atmosphere in sold-out Viejas Arena — loud and proud, but without the usual diet of animosity spewed onto the visiting bench just 20 feet away — that BYU seemed to embrace, taking double-digit leads in both halves before the Aztecs came away with an 82-75 win.

Even that was strange. BYU was 4-1 in its last five visits to Viejas Arena.

So maybe it worked.

It’s all too soon to say it saved the season for the No. 19 Aztecs. But this was a BYU team that four days earlier had 23 turnovers and needed a late 3 to survive a scare by visiting Idaho State. And now the Aztecs head to the Pac-12’s Stanford on Tuesday, followed by a Maui Invitational where five of the eight teams are ranked.

Translation: Big exhale.

“I don’t know if it was poetry,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said, “but it was hard-fought basketball. … We keep playing hard, even if we don’t play well all the time. We played just enough to win today . I don’t know if we would have won in Provo.”

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The saviors were the big and small of SDSU’s newcomers: 6-foot-9, 240-pound TCU transfer Jaedon LeDee and 5-10 Seattle transfer Darrion Trammell.

Too long stretches Friday, LeDee our offense, tallied 16 points in 13 first-half minutes and finished with 23 after starting forward Keshad Johnson played just seven minutes with a dislocated shoulder from Monday’s opener. The most important bucket came with a minute left and the Aztecs up three, got the ball up with the shot clock running down and drove right for a layup.

Trammell added 21 points, including a fallaway 3 from Lakeside late that gave the Aztecs a six-point lead with two minutes left. There followed a sequence in which Nathan Mensah tipped in a Matt Bradley miss, then raced down the floor to block a fast-break dunk attempt by BYU’s Fousseyni Traore.

“I knew from there,” LeDee said, “we were going to take that game.”

Thirty minutes after the buzzer, Bradley was back on the floor in an empty Viejas Arena, trying to regain his shooting touch after another frustrating night against the Cougars. Last year in Provo, he finished with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. Friday: six points on 3-of-16.

The Aztecs shot just 40 percent overall and 4 of 14 from behind the arc (1 of 9 by people not named Trammell), while BYU shot 45.9 percent, had four players score in double figures and finished with two more baskets than the hosts. But the Aztecs forced 20 Cougars turnovers and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.

Free throws made: 26-10, Aztecs.

Bench scoring: 32-13, Aztecs.

Score in final 15½ minutes: 40-23, Aztecs.

“I think it was more their seniority than their depth,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “They had eight turnovers in the first half and they had two in the second half. That’s what a veteran group does. They protected the ball well in the second half and really backed up the way they played.

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If there was a single moment that encapsulated SDSU’s night before that, it came with 5:36 left in the first half, when a fan sitting on the court spilled a beer on the floor and the game was stopped to mop it up. The mess, and the game, was so sloppy.

After posting six assists against just one turnover in the opener, Lamont Butler already had three fouls in as many minutes, and Dutcher didn’t wait until the media timeout under 16 minutes to go to his bench. The second unit quickly did what the starters couldn’t, and with 11:55 left, the Aztecs had the lead.

Nine seconds later, BYU hit a 3 and regained the lead.

Second half, the same. The Cougars extended a 40-36 halftime margin to 10 points before another furious charge put SDSU up 61-60 with 8:15 left.

Seventeen seconds later, BYU hit a 3 and regained the lead.

But the Aztecs kept knocking on the door and finally opened it, retaking the lead on another muscular inside basket by LeDee, and never relinquished it.

“We knew as time went on they were going to wear themselves out and we wanted to take advantage of that,” said Mensah, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. “We knew if we stayed close it was just a matter of time and they were going to pounce, and they did.”

Smile emojis all around.

Shortly after the match, another post appeared on The Show’s Twitter account:

“Fine. No one got hacked. Admin didn’t stop us. It was a little. Always been. We finally want to start acting like (expletive) maniacs again.”

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Dutcher said Johnson did not practice all week after suffering a shoulder contusion following a hard fall early in Monday’s opener against Cal State Fullerton. He still managed four points and two rebounds in seven minutes … The game commanded a veteran West Coast crew: Dave Hall, Randy McCall and Verne Harris. Hall had SDSU seven times last season, including the 66-60 loss at BYU. McCall and Harris worked each Aztecs game three times … This was the last home game in 18 days. The Aztecs play at Stanford on Tuesday, then three games in the Maui Invitational the week of Thanksgiving before returning home to host UC Irvine on Nov. 29 … Lest anyone think the Anteaters are a cupcake, they won 69-56 at No. 21 in Oregon Friday …

The last time SDSU had a pair of 20-point scorers in the same game was March 6, 2020, by Malachi Flynn (22) and KJ Feagin (21) against Boise State … Mensah became just the third Aztec in 25 years with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds , four steals and three blocks in one game. The others: Jamaal Franklin in 2011 (against Division III Redlands) and Evan Burns against Loyola Marymount in 2003 … The Aztecs have won nine straight at home and 25 of 26 … Spencer Johnson led BYU with 17 points and seven rebounds in his second career start . Rudi Williams, who took a recruiting trip to SDSU, had 15.

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