SDSU men’s basketball ‘still hungry’ as it heads to The Pit

by Anthony Reclusado, Assistant Sports Editor

In its final road match the San Diego State men’s basketball team will head to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to face the University of New Mexico in WisePies Arena, or otherwise known as The Pit, Tuesday night.

The last time the Aztecs (21-8, 14-2 Mountain West) and the Lobos (16-13, 9-7 MW) shared the court it took a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from sophomore forward Malik Pope to force overtime. SDSU would go on to win the game by seven points and tie the all-time MW record for its 11th straight victory to open conference play.

Fast forward a few weeks and a quick glance at the Aztec schedule and, at least from a statistical standpoint, this matchup holds no value for SDSU. It secured the MW championship last week against University of Wyoming and the loss against Boise State burst its bubble as a potential at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

But the mindset of winning is not easily switched off.

“We are still hungry,” junior guard Dakari Allen said. “Every game we play we want to be the hunters. We just have to stay aggressive and try and get the (win) these last two games.”

Aside from their hunter mentality, this is a rivalry game and, as such, everything up to this point in the season is thrown out of the window for pride and bragging rights.

“Fans are always crazy there,” SDSU assistant coach David Velasquez said. “Whatever has happened in the past couple years, this is now a rivalry. They want to beat us. They don’t like us. Their fans don’t like us. It is what it is.”

Past the rivalry, this contest is critical for the Lobos, who currently sit at the No. 5 seed in the MW with a one and a half game lead over the No. 6 seed UNLV, because the top five teams in the MW Tournament receive a first-round bye.

Regardless of their reasons, this match will pit the MW’s best scoring duo in UNM’s guard Elijah Brown and forward Tim Williams against one of the nation’s top defenses from the Aztecs.

Brown and Williams are the the second and fourth leading scorers in the conference, respectively, and will look to stop their team’s three-game losing streak.

The last time these two teams met SDSU’s defense was able to walk out with the victory, but that is not to say Brown and Williams didn’t give the Aztecs their best shot. The duo combined for 44 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

But Brown is coming off a career night in the team’s loss to Fresno State where he single-handedly put up an almost identical stat line of 41 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

However, SDSU takes its vice grip defense to another level on the road and has limited their previous eight MW opponents to an average of 57.9 points on 36.5 percent shooting.

Offensively, the Aztecs will look to right the ship after blowing a nine-point lead against Boise State with less than two minutes last Saturday. And that starts with sophmore guard Trey Kell, freshman guard Jeremy Hemsley and senior forward Winston Shepard at the forefront.

The trio accounted for 54.7 percent of the Aztecs’ points and 59 percent of the team’s assists and will look to take advantage of the Lobos second half woes.

History on the line

An Aztec victory will be SDSU’s eighth conference road win of the season and break the MW record for most road wins in a single season.

Individually, Shepard and senior forward Skylar Spencer are one win away from taking sole possession of all-time conference wins. They are tied with Jimmer Fredette at 53 MW victories.

How to watch 

Tonight’s game will tip-off at 6:30 p.m. The game will broadcast on CBS Sports Network and on The Mighty 1090 AM.

Follow the @DAztecSports and @TheDailyAztec for live updates and postgame coverage.

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