Rams batter Aztecs’ shield in the closing minutes, defeat SDSU 78-77

San Diego State men’s basketball fell just short of the mark, as Colorado State University battled back from a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat the Aztecs, 78-77.

CSU senior guard Gian Clavell was the man responsible for the Rams’ game-winning shot, putting the game on ice with a layup with just 3.8 seconds left in the contest.

“Once I saw [SDSU junior forward Malik] Pope kind of reach in, I pulled it up and it went off the backboard,” Clavell said. “Thankfully it went in.”

The Aztecs’ student section wasn’t thankful of Clavell, as the Scarlet and Black faithful dialed their chanting efforts towards him all night. Unfortunately for The Show, their chants only seemed to fuel Clavell’s scoring frenzy.

Clavell’s layup pushed his point total to a career-high 37 points on 14-23 shooting from the floor.

The Aztecs, however, dominated the first half of Saturday’s affair with momentous dunks from both Pope and senior center Valentine Izundu. The two’s efforts helped SDSU build a 10-point lead at halftime.

The Rams, of course, bucked back.

A barrage of three-pointers fueled CSU’s comeback efforts, as the team shot an outstanding 87.5 percent (7-8) from downtown in the second half. With that, the Rams finished the day shooting 55.6 percent (10-18) from behind the arc, doubling the Aztecs’ measly 27.3 percent three-point percentage.

Pope did his best to keep SDSU’s offense afloat, as he led the team in scoring with 19 points. He also picked up a team-high seven rebounds, filling the void of injured sophomore forward Zylan Cheathum.

“Missing Zylan is a big piece, so of course I’ll have to step my game up on rebounding and all the ways that he helps this team,” Pope said. “But we all did that. All five of us. Everyone else on the court, it wasn’t just me. We just had to pick up the slack [in the things] he was really good at. [But we’re] just waiting. Just waiting, hoping he gets back soon.”

Cheathum was a late scratch from the lineup due to a “stress reaction” in his foot. His status will remain day to day.

SDSU’s second half collapse against CSU shares similarities to the team’s 60-57 loss to Air Force on Tuesday. Both games featured an Aztec team incapable of maintaining a lead in the closing minutes.

Though SDSU was able to crash the offensive boards late in the contest, they simply couldn’t push their shots through the bottom of the net in the clutch moments of the game.

Additionally, the Aztecs’ offense left a lot of points off the board because of missed free throws, as the team shot just 67.8 percent (19-28) from the line. Pope went as far as to completely miss the basket on one of the team’s final free throws, one of many SDSU miscues late in the game.

Despite the mistakes, SDSU head coach Steve Fisher believes his team did everything necessary to win the game.

“When you have five turn overs, score 77 points, get to the free throw line 28 times and they are 14, you should win the game,” Fisher said. “And we didn’t.”

The loss adds to the Aztecs’ current downward spiral, as they have now fallen to 11-9 overall and 3-5 in conference play.

Fisher will look to right the ship before the Aztecs’ next home affair against the University of Wyoming on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Thumbnail/Featured Image: Jan. 28, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado State Rams guard Gian Clavell (3) is defended by San Diego State Aztecs guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) as he shoots. Credit: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports 

SDSU men’s hoops looking to make a statement against CSU

Aztecs guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) attempts a basket. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) per GoAztecs.com

The San Diego State men’s basketball team has had a tough time living up to the expectations given to them before this season started.

The Aztecs were the favorites to win the Mountain West conference. Outside of a two nationally recognized games (Gonzaga and Arizona State), the schedule was destined for a magical Steve Fisher season like we’ve seen several times in his time at SDSU. However, we are about halfway through the season, and the Aztecs are barely .500, opening the door for a lot of criticism from their hometown fans.

After falling to 10th in the MW conference a couple weeks ago, SDSU quickly rebounded with three consecutive wins in the conference, giving supporters of the Scarlet and Black some hope. The Aztecs, however, suffered another frustrating loss to Air Force, which further pushed SDSU’s title dreams out of the picture.

With 11 games still pinned on the schedule, all hope is not lost for the Aztecs.

Fisher is more than capable of leading SDSU on a prosperous run to close out the season, a run that will start with earning a win in Viejas Arena against Colorado State University on Saturday.

“All we have to do is look at the stats right now, Fisher said. “One game separates those of us with three losses from first place, and one game separates those with three losses from eighth place. So every game is crucial to have a chance to win this league.”

The Aztecs (12-8) will look to climb out of sixth place in the MW with a win over fifth-place CSU (12-8).

Led by redshirt senior guard Gian Clavell (16.3 PPG) and senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo (13.3 PPG), the Rams’ offense has flashed their horns in recent weeks.

SDSU will lean on their backcourt in sophomore guard Jeremy Hemsley (14.9 PPG) and junior guard Try Kell (13.3 PPG) to rally the Aztecs’ struggling offense to new heights.

Additionally, look for SDSU to rely on senior forward Matt Shrigley to spark their offense with some key three-pointers in transition.

The Aztecs’ defense, on the other hand, has maintained its strength this season despite the team’s poor record. SDSU’s defense has held opponents to less than 61 points per game in each of their last four games.

With that, the Aztecs’ defense must again carry the load against CSU’s highly talented offense in order to keep the pressure off the team’s inconsistent offensive attack.

Follow @KCRSports to see live tweets from Saturday’s game starting at 3:00 p.m. (PST).