With its historic winning streak over, No. 5 San Diego State returns to action Tuesday for its home finale against Colorado State.
The Aztecs (26-1, 15-1 Mountain West Conference) -- the last remaining undefeated team of the 2019-20 college basketball season before a 66-63 loss to UNLV on Saturday -- hope to regroup heading into their final two regular-season dates. Their winning streak had been the longest in school history.
"Anybody that was saying they thought a loss would be good for the Aztecs, we don't feel that way at all," San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said in his postgame press conference. "We're vastly disappointed. We wanted a perfect season, but it didn't happen, and that's college basketball. I'm smart enough to know that every game you play is going to be a challenge.
"We have to use this moment to find a way to get better."
San Diego State trailed by as many as 14 points with less than 12 minutes to play, but Malachi Flynn led a furious rally with his 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
A contender for All-American and National Player of the Year honors, Flynn dished an assist and made a 3-pointer down the stretch that pulled San Diego State within a basket of the tie or the lead.
Flynn scored 23 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds in San Diego State's last meeting with Colorado State, a 79-57 blowout win all the way back on Dec. 4.
Since opening Mountain West play 0-3, including the home defeat against San Diego State, the Rams (19-10, 10-6) have played their way into contention for one of the five first-round byes in next month's conference tournament.
However, the Mountain West is a logjam from second place to sixth, with five teams sporting five or six losses and 11 or 10 wins. Colorado State lost to one of those teams, UNLV, 80-56 on Feb. 18. The Rams rallied on Saturday with a 78-71 defeat of San Jose State.
"It didn't help that (Seneca) Knight hit (five 3-pointers) in the first half," forward Adam Thistlewood said of the San Jose State guard, who scored 37 points. "But we didn't let it deteriorate us. We stuck with them the whole first half, and Dischon (Thomas) was a big part of why we were sticking with them."
Thomas, a freshman, averages just 3.7 points per game, but he scored 13 against the Spartans. His play of late includes a nine-point, four-rebound performance in a Feb. 1 win over UNLV.
Such added depth may be vital for the Rams to upset San Diego State on Tuesday. The Aztecs have one of the most balanced rotations in the nation, featuring four double-figure per-game scorers in Flynn (16.9 points per game), Matt Mitchell (12.4), Yanni Wetzell (11.9) and Jordan Schakel (10.1).
Mitchell hit for 18 points in San Diego State's prior meeting with Colorado State. He scored 13 points in the loss to UNLV, marking his sixth consecutive game scoring in double figures and the 10th in his last 11 contests.
At 40.4 percent 3-point shooting on the season, Mitchell is also one of the leaders of a San Diego State offense that ranks 12th in the nation with a 38.2 percent success rate from behind the arc. Colorado State ranks No. 237 defending the 3-pointer, allowing opponents to hit 33.9 percent.
--Field Level Media