SAN DIEGO — Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel came up big in their final game at Viejas Arena, putting No. 22 San Diego State in position to clinch a repeat Mountain West Conference title.
Mitchell hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left and fellow senior Schakel made four free throws in the final 8.7 seconds for the Aztecs, who beat Boise State 62-58 Saturday for their 10th straight victory.
Schakel finished with 17 points, and Mitchell had eight points, eight rebounds and four steals.
Sweeping the two-game series against the Broncos means the Aztecs (19-4, 13-3) can repeat as MWC regular-season champions if they win at UNLV on Wednesday night.
In normal times, Saturday would have been Senior Night for San Diego State. Since fans haven’t been allowed at games all season, coach Brian Dutcher held a private ceremony for the five seniors after practice Friday.
“Some of the emotions are taken out because the fans aren’t here,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time we’re still happy for each other, especially it being Senior Night and Jordan and I, our last game in Viejas. Putting all the blood, sweat and tears that we did, I do think to some extent we do take joy out of this, getting the W on our last game on this home court. But at the same time we’re not done, we’re still going.”
BSU (18-6, 14-5) came into the series with a half-game lead. On Tuesday, the Mountain West awarded San Diego State a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico. Those games do not count in SDSU’s overall or formal conference record, but will count for seeding and conference championship implications.
Broncos star Derrick Alston Jr. had a miserable game, scoring just seven points – 11 under his average – on 2-of-12 shooting. He went 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
Mitchell had two big plays in the closing minutes. With the Aztecs leading by two points, he stole the ball and fed Keshad Johnson for a slam dunk. A few minutes later, he fed Nathan Mensah for a layup and a 56-53 lead.
It was a grind-it-out win for the Aztecs.
“Boise’s a good team. They make things hard,” Dutcher said. “A lot of the game looked disjointed and that’s because we guard hard. It’s two good teams knowing what each other’s strengths are and doing a good job of trying to take them away. It didn’t look free-flowing or smooth, but it was beautiful to a coach.”
Schakel came up big despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. He drew his second foul midway through the first half, his third early in the second half and then his fourth with 4:17 to go.
“It’s not hard to stay locked in in a game like this, everything that’s at stake,” Schakel said.
Boise State got within one point several times in the closing minutes, including after 3-pointers from Devonaire Doutrive and Marcus Shaver Jr.
But the Broncos could never get the lead and had to foul. Schakel made two free throws with 8.7 seconds to go and two more with 5.8 seconds left, sandwiched around two free throws by Doutrive.
Doutrive made the second of two free throws with 3.8 seconds left before Mitchell sealed it with two foul shots.
Schakel also had two clutch 3-pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the second half.
After the Broncos closed to 38-36 on two free throws by Emmanuel Akot, Schakel hit a long shot from the left wing and then hit one from the right corner before tumbling out of bounds.
Shaver and Doutrive scored 13 apiece for BSU. Mladen Armus had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“It didn’t end up the way we wanted. We didn’t make the shots we wanted to make,” coach Leon Rice said. “But we fought, we outrebounded them and did some things that show how tough we were. But in the end we’ve got to be able to make some shots.”
On Thursday night, SDSU blew a 17-point lead before winning 78-66 in overtime.
Boise State: The Broncos are 8-58 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including 3-33 under Rice. One of those victories came at Viejas Arena on Feb. 28, 2015, 56-46 against No. 24 SDSU.
San Diego State: Dutcher started all five seniors: Mitchell, Schakel, Terrell Gomez, Trey Pulliam and Joshua Tomaic. The NCAA will grant everyone an extra year of eligibility, but Mitchell, who toyed with entering the NBA draft last before returning, almost certainly won’t be back.