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SDSU hosts USD in the crosstown basketball rivalry that isn't

Discussion in 'All Other San Diego Sports' started by SDRay, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. SDRay

    SDRay RIP SD Chargers..F the LA Chargers, Go Irish Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

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    https://www.sandiegouniontribune.co...su-basketball-usd-toreros-20181204-story.html



    The San Diego State men’s basketball team has two nonconference games that it wouldn’t otherwise schedule. They’re four days apart.

    One was Saturday at Illinois State as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, requiring a nine-hour trip of planes and buses and winter parkas to the frigid flatlands of middle America. The other is tonight at Viejas Arena, against a team located 10 miles away.

    The Aztecs won the first, 75-65 at Redbird Arena. Now they’ll put on a good face and try to win the second, against a 6-2 USD team that starts four seniors and a fourth-year junior who run a hard-to-guard, Princeton-style offense in their sleep.

    This is the third of a four-year contract between the schools, with just next season’s game at Jenny Craig Pavilion remaining, that was orchestrated by former SDSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk and influential boosters like Padres managing partner Ron Fowler, who donates substantial amounts of money to both schools. They operate under the premise that an annual meeting between the city’s Division I basketball programs is “good for the community.”

    The argument against is that the risk outweighs the reward for an SDSU program trying to build a nonconference résumé worthy of an at-large NCAA berth, unnecessarily exposing it to an amped-up team resentful of the immense shadow cast by its crosstown brethren.

    Or put another way: You never hear SDSU players or coaches calling it a rivalry or referring to the “city championship,” as some media outlets do.

    “They’re the ones who think it’s a rivalry,” Aztecs senior guard Jeremy Hemsley said after last year’s 66-57 win at USD. “We don’t try to act like it’s a rivalry or hype up any game. I think the rivalry game is more them. We just had to go out there and make sure we didn’t blow off a game like we did in my freshman year with them at Petco Park.”

    Ah, Petco Park.

    The series had expired and looked like it was headed for hiatus when a decision was made, well above the coaches’ pay grade, to play an outdoor game at the Padres’ home in 2015. The initial idea was for SDSU to face a high-profile opponent from a power conference in a nationally televised game; instead, USD became the opponent in Fowler’s ballpark and the series was extended four years beyond that in their own arenas.

    The Aztecs looked lethargic and missed 19 of their first 22 shots in the afternoon sun and wind, and lost for the only time in the last 12 meetings. Three months later, the head of the NCAA Tournament selection committee mentioned it as one of the reasons they were snubbed despite convincingly winning the Mountain West with a 16-2 regular-season record.

    The arguments against playing USD, though, are muted this season by two factors. One, the game is at Viejas Arena, where the Aztecs haven’t lost to the Toreros since 2000. Two, the Toreros are actually pretty good after nearly a decade wallowing in the lower half of Div. I and enduring an ugly point-shaving scandal.

    That mitigates the previous fear of having nothing to gain from a win in terms of computer metrics and résumé optics, and everything to lose. This year, they get an opponent that beat the Pac-12’s Colorado at home and took Washington to the wire on the road.

    Their rankings in the NCAA’s new NET metric: 43 for SDSU, 74 for USD.

    Tactically, the Aztecs (5-2) should have an advantage if 6-foot-10 post Yauhen Massalski doesn’t play after spraining his ankle a week ago in a 93-86 loss at Mississippi. Illinois State, picked to win the Missouri Valley, struggled against SDSU’s length inside, especially when 6-10 freshman Nathan Mensah (and his 7-5 wingspan) was paired with 6-10 Jalen McDaniels. Together, they had 25 rebounds.

    And last year, SDSU’s Devin Watson (26 points, five steals) got the better of Isaiah Wright (10 points, 4-of-15 shooting) in the battle of veteran point guards.

    “They’ve got many, many playmakers who present a lot of matchup problems on both ends of the floor,” first-year USD head coach Sam Scholl said. “(They’re) well-schooled defensively. And their offense is clicking at a pretty high rate right now.”

    The intangible, of course, is human nature. The occasion is far bigger for the senior-laden roster that largely exists in anonymity and views this as a last chance to command the spotlight. (USD has drawn 6,266 fans, total, in five home games and as little as 544 in one; SDSU has drawn 32,037 to just three games.)

    Asked if there’s extra incentive playing a team from across town, Watson said: “Not really.”

    Hemsley, sitting next to him, added: “It’s just another game.”

    Maybe the biggest game of the season for one team … and maybe the third biggest game in eight days for the other, sandwiched on the schedule between road dates at Illinois State and Cal.

    Sounds like the quintessential trap game.

    “I mean, I’d be more concerned if USD was 2-6 instead of 6-2,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said after painstakingly working against USD’s offensive sets in practice Tuesday. “Then you sit there and worry that we’re taking them lightly because they’re 2-6. They’re 6-2. They’ve got a very good team this year.

    “Trust me, we won’t be taking them lightly.”

    USD at SDSU
    Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Viejas Arena

    On the air: Stadium web stream (also carried on Facebook live); 1360-AM and 101.5-FM (SDSU), 1700-AM (USD)

    Records: USD is 6-2; SDSU is 5-2

    Series history: This is the 50th all-time meeting. SDSU leads 31-18 and has won 11 straight played indoors and eight straight at home. The lone loss in that stretch was 53-48 outdoors at Petco Park in 2015. The last USD win at Viejas (then Cox) Arena was 55-52 in 2000.

    Toreros update: It’s highly doubtful 6-10 sophomore Yauhen “Squirrel” Massalski, the Toreros’ second-leading rebounder, will play. He missed the Toreros’ game Saturday against Long Beach State with a sprained right ankle and has been limited to rehabbing the last two days. With Massalski sidelined and 6-8 Alex Floresca expected to start for him, an already thin USD bench becomes even thinner. The next highest scoring bench player is 6-10 Jose Martinez at 3.5 points. The Toreros have outscored opponents 338-273 in the second half, an average of 42.2-34.1. USD is shooting 75.7 percent on free throws, 35th out of 353 Division I programs. Three starters are over 80 percent: Isaiah Wright (86.2), Isaiah Pineiro (85.7) and Tyler Williams (83.3). Pineiro led USD is scoring and rebounding last season (15.7 and 6.2). He’s leading in both categories again and has upped the numbers to 21.3 and 8.1.

    Aztecs update: They are healthier than Saturday, when Nolan Narain skipped the trip with the flu, Jordan Schakel was so sick he couldn’t warm up and Devin Watson was on antibiotics. Everyone practiced Tuesday. The 75-65 decision at Illinois State gives the Aztecs a second “resume” win, to go with the 19-point comeback against Xavier in the Maui Invitational. The test now is not to suffer a letdown after a long trip home, the loss of two days practice due to travel and overconfidence from beating an Illinois State team with one of the nation’s best home records in recent years. The Aztecs won 66-57 at USD last year despite playing without Trey Kell (ankle) and Max Montana (knee), and with Malik Pope slowed by a foot injury. Devin Watson had 26 points, Matt Mitchell had 13 and Jeremy Hemsley had 11. Jalen McDaniels played only eight minutes and finished with two points.

    Next up: SDSU is Cal on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network); USD hosts CSUN on Sunday at 1 p.m.
     
  2. SDRay

    SDRay RIP SD Chargers..F the LA Chargers, Go Irish Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

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    Aztecs got spanked by USD. Good for the Toreros!
     
  3. Quetzalcoatl

    Quetzalcoatl BoltTalker

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    Lame.
     

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