The crosstown series between San Diego State and USD men’s basketball teams have been so lopsided that the Aztecs don’t consider it a rival. In 12 seasons, the Toreros have beaten the Aztecs only once.
This year, USD (5-1) came in undefeated and SDSU (6-2) was without one of its best players because of injury, but the result was still the same. The Aztecs defeated the Toreros, 66-57, on Thursday at Jenny Craig Pavillion.
But USD didn’t make it easy for SDSU, forcing 17 turnovers. The Toreros started well, hitting three of their first six shots, but went on an eight-plus minute scoring drought that allowed the Aztecs the lead heading into the half. After the half, USD went on a 10-6 run that cut the lead down to four points — the closest gap for the night.
“I wish we had taken better care of the ball,” Aztec coach Brian Dutcher said. “Seventeen turnovers, but the opponent had a lot to do with that. They pressured us around the floor and did a good job with their defense.”
The Aztecs were without Trey Kell, who was out because of a sprained ankle sustained during the Wooden Legacy finals against Washington State, and Max Montana, but still managed a great defensive game. SDSU overcame the 17 turnovers, held USD to 37.7-percent shooting and limited USD to its fewest points of the season.
“Our guys battled,” Toreros coach Lamont Smith said. “The disappointing thing is that the guys in the locker room didn’t feel they played their very best. That’s a credit to San Diego State. They did some things to disrupt us on the offensive end.”
The Toreros defense, however, couldn’t find the answer for Devin Watson, who scored a game-high 26 points and went 10 of 11 from the free throw line for the Aztecs.
Watson “had 26 points and carried us in that first half until other guys got involved,” Dutcher said. Once we got the other guys involved it got a little easier, but Devin was absolutely outstanding tonight.”
Even though the Toreros came into the game undefeated, the Aztecs weren’t intimidated by that. It was “just another game” for them, Dutcher said.
“We’ve played undefeated Washington State, undefeated Georgia, undefeated San Diego, we’re going to play 7-1 Bradley on Sunday, Arizona State is undefeated, so we’ve played a really challenging schedule,” he said. “It’s not taking anything away from this game in particular, but, we’re already focused on the next one. We’ve had a challenging nonconference schedule and it will continue after Bradley with Cal and Gonzaga coming to our place. We’re going to be tested coming into the conference and this was a good test for us tonight.”
For the Toreros, this game was a test too.
“We’re going to continue to get better,” Smith said. “We’re a young basketball team in terms of playing in a game like this early on in the season and we’ll keep getting better.”
USD will next face UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara on Saturday. The Gauchos are coming off a four-game winning streak, beating San Francisco at San Francisco.
SDSU will host Bradley in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge at Viejas Arena on Sunday.
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