No second season for men’s hoops

by Staff

San Jose State’s LaRon Campbell-Hall watches SDSU’s Chad Nelson score two of his 15 points last night in the Aztecs’ loss to the Spartans.
J.R. ROSEN/Daily Aztec

This is exactly the way you’d expect a game between two teams fighting it out for the sixth and final postseason spot to come down to.

In fact, you’d expect it from a team like San Jose State. It had been through this once before last season in the Big West tournament when it won the Big West tournament with a shot by Rich Taylor at the buzzer.

In a sick twist of events, once again Taylor would be the man.

As the 6-foot-9 senior hit a jump shot from the corner of the key to end San Diego State’s hopes for postseason glory 65-63 in front of 3, 082 fans last night at the San Diego Sports Arena.

“Olivier picked up his dribble and passed it over to me and I knew there wasn’t too much time left so I shot it,” Taylor said. “It was deja vu all over again.”

But this chain of events almost experienced a kink when SDSU’s Chad Nelson fired off a desperation shot a tenth of a second too late. To make things worse, Nelson’s shot went in.

“Tonight pretty much sums up how this season turned out for us,” SDSU point guard Nelson. “The shot went in, I thought I had released it before the buzzer went off but I guess it was a second late.”

The shot immediately sent the referees sprinting for the showers, the Spartans (13-12, 5-10 Western Athletic Conference) on to the court in jubilation and the Aztecs (12-14, 4-11 WAC) into the locker room pondering just what had happened to them.

“Words can’t explain what we’re feeling right now,” SDSU point guard Jason Richey said. “It’s like we got tipped upside down and then just hit by a truck.”

That truck hitting them tonight wasn’t the one they’d expected to see.

With just a little over one minute expired in the first half, SJSU’s Saint-Jean went on a one-on-one breakaway to the basket. The only man standing between him and the basket was Richey.

It was a move he’d done numerous times, a move Spartans fans had grown accustomed to seeing him finish off with a spectacular dunk.

But not this time.

An offensive foul was called, one of 21 first-half fouls called, as Richey stood his ground and took the charge.

As a result, Saint-Jean would not return to the game until nine minutes later. SJSU, however, suffered little while its superstar was on the bench. The Spartans built up a 12-point lead while the Aztecs, in that same span, hit just two field goals.

“Give (Spartans head coach Stan Morrisons’) kids a lot of credit, they lost their big gun, Saint-Jean, early in the game and they pushed it out,” SDSU head coach Fred Trenkle said. “How many times does this happen? When the big gun goes down the other five guys really rally that are in the ballgame.”

The Aztecs pulled off a rally of their own in the first half. A rally which was keyed by Nelson.

Down 22-10, Nelson took over for SDSU.

He ignited the Aztecs on a 14-2 run, scoring 12 points and assisting on the only other basket not made by him during that span.

SDSU would suffer a huge scare of its own and the thought of losing its big gun, Richey.

Richey would once again take a charging foul, one of three taken by him on the night, this time sending him to the ground in instant pain.

“I had hurt my back and hip earlier in the week and when I fell on it after the charge I kind of aggravated it,” Richey said.

Richey left the game with the help of the trainers and attempted to walk it off behind SDSU’s bench. He checked back into the game just one minute later but obviously a step slower.

From that point on, a trio of Aztec guards, Nelson, Richey and freshman Will Porter asserted themselves offensively.

The trio brought SDSU to its first lead of the game with its deadly shooting from beyond the three-point arc and drives to the hoop. It in fact gave the Aztecs their first lead of the game on a Richey three-pointer, 52-50.

SDSU stretched its lead out to a six-point margin at 63-57 with 4:11 remaining but that’s when it all caved in. It would score not a single point the rest of the way and put a perfect ending to a season with so much heartbreak and disappointment.

“We do all our preparing on Wednesday to get ready for this game and we leave the office for 15 minutes and somebody steals our big screen TV,” Trenkle said. “That’s just the way this season has gone.”