San Diego State eliminated from NCAA Tournament by UConn, 82-52

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
For the second consecutive season, the Aztecs' championship hopes were spoiled by the Huskies.

The San Diego State Aztecs headed to Boston as they prepared for the biggest game their program has had since they faced UConn in the national championship game last season. Once again, they found themselves locked into a matchup with the Huskies.

This time, however, it came in a Sweet 16 game that would determine which of the two squads would make their return to the Elite 8. Jaedon LeDee opened the game with a jump shot that handed the Huskies their first deficit of the entire tournament, but UConn was able to quickly retaliate. They took control in the opening minutes of the half and had built up an 11-point lead within the first 10 minutes. San Diego State was able to stay in it, however, and managed to push the lead down to 4 with 3:39 left in the opening half.

A few late points from UConn’s Cam Spencer helped them expand on their lead again as the Huskies took a 40-31 lead into the locker room. In the second half, the Aztecs simply ran out of steam and were unable to keep up with the relentless guard play of the Huskies. Cam Spencer and Tristen Newton led the team across the finish line as they did not let their foot off the gas. UConn only extended the lead further as time went on and took home an 82-52 win to send the Aztecs packing yet again.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Jaedon LeDee fades in the second half

After carrying the Aztecs through the first 2 rounds in the tournament, Jaedon LeDee was going to need another incredible performance if he wanted to see his team move on to the Elite 8. The first half was a solid one for the senior, who poured in 15 points and had the team’s first 7 to open the game. Unfortunately, he sputtered out in the second half as the squad collectively seemed to run out of gas against a UConn squad that now has 9 consecutive double-digit March Madness victories. LeDee scored just 3 in the final 20 minutes as he finished his final college game with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 assist. It was an incredible tournament run for him, and the Aztec fans will always be appreciative of his efforts this season as well as during last year’s magical run to the championship game.

LeDee and two of his fellow seniors (Darrion Trammell, Jay Pal) each had an emotional moment with head coach Brain Dutcher as they exited the floor for the final time. In his final season, he averaged 21.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game as he earned a spot on the AP All-American Third Team. While the result that the Aztecs were hoping for did not end up as reality, LeDee should still be proud of all he has done for the program and San Diego State as a whole.

Huskies dominate the boards all game long

Among other difference makers, perhaps the most noticeable was the Aztecs’ lack of ability to keep up in the rebounding department on Thursday afternoon. UConn was able to out-rebound them 50-29, helping their cause in a huge fashion. Every single one of the Huskie’s starters managed to record 5 or more rebounds with Stephon Castle leading the way (11 boards). Donovan Clingan, UConn’s star big man, also contributed 8 rebounds. The Aztecs did manage to do a decent job at preventing Clingan from doing as much damage normally does after the 7’2 sophomore got into foul trouble early on. The Huskies won the offensive rebound battle 21-12 while winning the rebound battle on the defensive end 29-17. Their aggressiveness helped them to completely outpace the Aztecs from inside the paint as they outscored them by a margin of 38-18. The reality for San Diego State was that they simply did not match up well in the size department against UConn, and they certainly paid the price for it in a harsh way.

Aztec guard play fails to keep pace

It seems as if the UConn Huskies have built up a roster which has very few weak points. Their starting guard trio of Cam Spencer, Tristen Newton, and Stephon Castle have terrorized opponents throughout the duration of the tournament. They have been one of the main reasons for the Huskie’s victory margins of 39, 17, and 30 in the first three rounds.

Their outing against the Aztecs was the best one yet, and unfortunately for San Diego State, their guards could not keep pace for 40 minutes. Spencer (18 points), Newton (17 points), and Castle (16 points) combined for 51 of UConn’s 82 points in the contest. They accounted for over 62% of their team’s scoring and left the Aztecs to try and fight from behind for the majority of the game. The guard trio for San Diego State consisting of Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell, and Micah Parish was simply not effective enough. The trio combined for just 20 points, with Parish’s 10 leading the way. Butler managed 7 points while Trammell’s only bucket of the game came on a three-pointer. Jaedon LeDee was the only other man on the roster besides Parish to reach double digits in the contest (18), and the Aztecs simply lacked the firepower that it would have taken to match the pace of the Huskies.

With the season now officially over, the San Diego State team could end up looking much different next year. Micah Parrish, Jay Pal, Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell, and Jaedon LeDee were all seniors who officially played their last college games on Thursday in Boston. It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up and retools as the Aztecs will be hard at work to try and return to the tournament once again. For now, the squad will sit back and reflect on another fun season that, unfortunately, didn’t end the way that they would have wished.