Aztecs aim to keep Air Force grounded on senior night

Aztecs senior Malik Pope takes the court against Fresno State. Photo Credit: GoAztecs.com (Ernie Anderson)

The San Diego State men’s basketball team has had its ups and downs this season. After being selected to win the Mountain West conference in the preseason, the Aztecs find themselves fighting for a sixth place finish in the conference alongside Fresno State. The record does not reflect the fight and passion Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher and his squad have put in, as most of the losses were by 10 points or less.

The Scarlet and Black have an opportunity to avenge one of those losses as Air Force travels to Viejas arena for the final home game of the season on Thursday night. The last time these two teams squared off, Air Force walked away with a 60-57 nail-biting win, leaving the Aztecs with a frustrating trip home.

There’s no doubt that this game will a lot of hype around it. It’s not only a revenge game and the last home game, but it’s also senior night in San Diego. Dakarai Allen, Matt Shrigley, D’Erryl Williams, and Valentine Izundu will all be honored pre-game in the starting lineup alongside Malik Pope. Allen, Shrigley and Williams started their SDSU careers during the 2013-14 campaign.

Air Force comes into this game boasting an offense that averages nearly 75 points per game, while the Aztecs average just 69 points per game. The strong suit of this SDSU team has and always will be defense, thanks to the program and philosophy of coach Fisher.

Beneath Fisher’s tutelage, SDSU has allowed just 63 points per game, a tremendous feat in Division I basketball.

Keys to the game for SDSU will be defensive pressure, handling the ball, and keeping the foot on the gas in the second half. The Aztecs have averaged at least a 10-point lead in each of their conference losses this season, and it has been the primary concern among Scarlett and Black fans.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Viejas arena Thursday night. Coverage will be provided live via Twitter from @KCRsports.

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).