The Daily Aztec

SDSU loses to Cal, 63-62, after late-game heroics fall short

Malik+Pope+%2821%29+looks+on+as+Cal+freshman+forward+Justice+Sueing+attempts+a+shot+in+the+Aztecs+63-62+loss+at+Viejas+Arena+on+Dec.+9
Malik Pope (21) looks on as Cal freshman forward Justice Sueing attempts a shot in the Aztecs 63-62 loss at Viejas Arena on Dec. 9

Malik Pope (21) looks on as Cal freshman forward Justice Sueing attempts a shot in the Aztecs 63-62 loss at Viejas Arena on Dec. 9

Photo by Samantha Bonpensiero

Photo by Samantha Bonpensiero

Malik Pope (21) looks on as Cal freshman forward Justice Sueing attempts a shot in the Aztecs 63-62 loss at Viejas Arena on Dec. 9

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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In the end, it was just not meant to be.

A combination of poor three-point shooting and a letdown in the game’s final minute spelled doom for San Diego State men’s basketball, which fell 63-62 to the University of California, Berkeley, in front of a raucous crowd at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs (7-3) trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half and looked poised to finish off a dramatic comeback after a free throw from junior guard Jeremy Hemsley gave the Aztecs a 62-58 lead with 50 seconds to play.

Cal (4-6) would score the final five points of the game, however, and delivered the knockout blow after two free throws from freshman guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson gave the Golden Bears a 63-62 lead with eight seconds left.

The Aztecs last chance shot fell short after Hemsley’s three-point attempt clanked off the rim as time expired.

“It was more of a drive and kick look, but they had double-teamed (junior guard Devin Watson) in the corner. So I tried to go behind them,” Hemsley said. “We just didn’t get the look we wanted.”

SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher said that he was proud of the way his team played through adversity and clawed back in the second half.

“I just like the toughness and grit of my team to fight back and put themselves in the lead, and unfortunately we couldn’t hold it,” Dutcher said.

SDSU made only six of 28 three-point shots in the game, including just two of 12 in the second half.

“We all know if you shoot 6-for-28 from three, you’re not going to win a lot of games against a zone,” Dutcher said. “The thing I’ll say about the shots is they were from the people I wanted shooting them, and they didn’t go in.”

SDSU junior forward Max Montana and Watson combined to go 0-for-12 from behind the arc.

The loss was the Aztecs third in as many tries against Pac-12 schools this season, after previously being defeated by both Arizona State University and Washington State University.

“When you’re trying to get a resume built, it’s always harder when you’re a non-Power-five conference,” Dutcher said. “But the thing that we can’t do, and I refuse to do, is obsess with games in the non-conference and let our kids get depressed.”

Senior forward Malik Pope led SDSU with a game high 20 points to go with eight rebounds, and scored the team’s first 13 points in a big first half.

Pope said that the team is not going to let the loss change their mentality or affect their focus going forward.

“We just focus game by game, to be honest,” he said. “It’s really just what we can control, we control. You can’t really think too far in the future.”

The Aztecs dug themselves into a big hole to start the second after Cal came out on a 9-0 run to build a 48-34 lead a little over three minutes into the final period.

SDSU stuck around thanks to unanswered runs of six and seven points, and was able to mount its final comeback after Cal failed to convert a field goal for over nine minutes while missing 10 consecutive shots. 

Freshman forward Matt Mitchell drained a three-pointer to give the Aztecs their first lead since the 3:51 mark of the first half, which completed a 11-1 run and made the score 58-56 with 4:27 to play.

Mitchell finished the game with 13 points – seven in the second half – to go along with six rebounds and three assists.

The Golden Bears were led on offense by junior guard Don Coleman, who scored a team-high 19 points and whose three-point play with 42 seconds left in the game got Cal within 62-61.

Coleman was involved in an altercation with Pope at the halfway point of the second half after the two became tangled up on the ground under the basket, and double flagrant fouls were issued after Coleman appeared to attempt to kick Pope in the head.

“Just physical, you know, a lot of emotions,” Pope said. “(Coleman) is a chippy player, which is expected. There’s no taking from him, you can only respect it. But yeah, got a little kick down there. A little retaliation by me, which is just a mental breakdown.”

Coleman heard emphatic boos from the Viejas crowd every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the game.

Cal went into halftime with a 34-29 lead, and controlled the pace for the majority of the half after scoring on it’s first five possessions to jump out to an 11-2 advantage.

Pope appeared to single-handedly keep the Aztecs – who led for only 15 seconds in the initial period – in the game in the first half, scoring the team’s first thirteen points en route to 15 points at the break.

A Hemsley free throw with 12:21 left in the first half was SDSU’s first point to come from someone not named Pope.

Senior guard Trey Kell returned for the Aztecs, after he had missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, but he scored only three points in the first half before sitting out the second half after suffering a quad contusion just before halftime.

SDSU will attempt to take down a ranked opponent in it’s next game, when they host No. 12 Gonzaga University at Viejas Arena on Dec. 21.

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