Kell, McDaniels lead SDSU to 72-70 upset of No. 12 Gonzaga
SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State got the signature win so far in the Brian Dutcher era when senior Trey Kell and redshirt freshman Jalen McDaniels came up big in the second half of a 72-70 upset of No. 12 Gonzaga on Thursday night.
Kell scored 10 of his 14 points in the final 2:56 and McDaniels scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds, which overcame poor shooting and benefited from 16 Zags turnovers
“It’s a great win for us,” said Dutcher, who was promoted to head coach after Steve Fisher retired in April. “When you beat a ranked team it feels good; you beat a good Gonzaga team. It does feel good. As a coach I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this one over the holiday break. It’s a great way to build momentum moving into the conference. It gives the kids some confidence to know that all the work they put in was rewarded.”
San Diego State hadn’t played since Dec. 9, when it lost 63-62 at home to California.
“We had 12 days to get better and we did that,” Kell said.
“Our kids showed great resolve coming off 12 days of practice without a game,” Dutcher said. “It’s good to see that they were rewarded for all the work they put in that 12 days. My concern was we’d come out a little rusty. We hadn’t played in so long. Even though we’d been working hard we had no game time.”
McDaniels had had a huge game off the bench.
“It’s a big win for us,” McDaniels said. “It’s a confidence-booster, going into league play, so it’s a good win for us.”
Freshman Matt Mitchell added 15 points for San Diego State (8-3), which led the whole game while shooting only 36.1 percent.
While McDaniels and Mitchell made big shots down the stretch, Kell— who didn’t start due to a thigh injury that’s limited him in practice — made eight of 10 free throws in the final 2:56 and added a nice reverse layup with 46.4 seconds to go to give SDSU a 66-60 lead.
The biggest shot for McDaniels was when he swooped in for a slam dunk off Kell’s missed 3-pointer for a 54-47 lead with 4:48 left that brought the crowd to its feet. That came one possession after Mitchell hit a 3-pointer.
Gonzaga (10-3) twice closed to two points, on a 3-pointer by Silas Melson and then on two free throws by Rui Hachimura with 1:36 left.
Kell then made the final two of his free throws and his reverse layup to give the Aztecs some breathing room.
Gonzaga’s Jesse Wade hit a 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left.
“It was a defensive battle out there for a long time,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had a hard time finding baskets in a consistent manner. I don’t think we were very tough.
“In the second half we got plenty of stops there. We just needed to find some baskets and we didn’t. San Diego State was long; their length bothered us. I thought McDaniels came in and made some big plays. At the end they were a lot smarter than us. Trey Kell shot nothing but free throws. We’ve got to be smarter.”
Zach Norvell Jr. led Gonzaga with 22 points while Hachimura had 13 and Johnathan Williams added 12 points and 15 rebounds.
With SDSU leading 35-34 in the second half, McDaniels hit a jumper and Jeremy Hemsley had a steal and a 3-pointer to make it 40-34.
McDaniels hit a turnaround jumper with 8:41 left and Mitchell converted a three-point play on the next possession to keep SDSU seven points ahead.
SDSU jumped to an 11-0 lead, getting two 3-pointers by Matt Mitchell and one by Devin Watson, and took a 14-4 lead after a 3-pointer by Malik Pope.
The Aztecs were up 22-10 with 8:21 before halftime after Devin Watson made a sweet behind-the-back bounce pass to free McDaniels for a layup and Kell hit a floater in the lane.
Gonzaga then outscored the Aztecs 13-3 the rest of the half. Rui Hachimura converted a three-point play and Killian Tillie made consecutive 3-pointers.
Hachimura made a layup with a minute left and the Zags trailed 25-23 at halftime.
Gonzaga: The Zags were coming off two home victories of different varieties: an 89-83 overtime victory against North Dakota and a 101-71 victory against IUPUI.
San Diego State: Kell didn’t start due to a bruised quad suffered in the Cal loss, but subbed in midway through the first half.
Gonzaga hosts Pacific in a West Coast Conference opener on Thursday.
San Diego State opens Mountain West Conference play at Wyoming on Wednesday.
More college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25