The Aztecs were supposed to dominate San Diego Christian.
They won, but not as they should have.
After losing 81-76 on the road against Utah in Salt Lake City Monday night, the Aztecs were primed for a recovery game against NAIA San Diego Christian.
They struggled. The 71-61 score is says it all.
Not to take anything away from the Hawks, they played hard (or to make this a bigger deal than it really is) but San Diego State let a far inferior opponent hang far too long in this game.
The Aztecs were without senior Winston Shepard who sat for precautionary reasons with an ankle injury he sustained at Utah. Had this been a game that actually counted (it doesn’t because SDCC is a NAIA school), he would have played.
It was evident, though, throughout the game that San Diego State missed his leadership and presence on the court. The Aztecs were hesitant at times and lacked flow, movement, and energy with the ball. The Hawks scored 19 points off the Aztecs 11 turnovers. Conversely, the Aztecs only scored 13 points off the Hawks 13 turnovers.
It was evident this game was as much a “test” for San Diego State as it was San Diego Christian.
The Aztecs mixed and matched different lineup combinations, even going with their four biggest players on the court at one point, something head coach Steve Fisher rarely, if ever, does. It was an opportunity to see what this team would play like without Shepard, and even Trey Kell, who did not play the second half because of a sore knee.
A win’s a win and the Aztecs will take it. But there’s much for this young team to still learn going forward.
Three things that stood out:
- Malik Pope was slow to start the game but found his stroke later on. After starting the season 1-12 shooting with just five points through the first two contests, Pope finished with 14 points (6-12) and five rebounds.
- Dakari Allen was the team’s best player to start the season but struggled to find his stroke against San Diego Christian. He scored 15 and 16 points in the first two games but managed only four points on 1-10 shooting, including 0-4 from three-point range, on Wednesday night.
- Zylan Cheatham showed flashes of his athleticism and energy in limited minutes against Utah. His full repertoire was on displayed against San Diego Christian. He had a monster dunk on a fast break, an alley-oop, and a beautiful baseline finger-roll from under the basket. He finished with 13 points and led the Aztecs with eight rebounds.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)