Aztecs shed USD in slim gym

by Antonio Morales

Antonio Zaragoza, photo editor
Antonio Zaragoza, photo editor

The San Diego State men’s basketball team was a double-digit favorite coming into its game against cross-town rival University of San Diego, but found itself down by double digits against USD’s Toreros early in the game.

SDSU trailed 14-2 at the start, but came back and won 74-62. The win would not have been possible without the strong play of junior guard Chase Tapley, who scored 23 points, and junior forward Deshawn Stephens, who added 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

The 12-point deficit was the largest the Aztecs have come back from to earn a win this season. SDSU has now won three straight on the road and 20 straight games against schools in California.

Tapley was honest when asked about the start of the game last night by SDSU; he called it one of the worst he’s seen since he’s been a member of the program.

“Since I’ve been here, yeah, it was pretty bad,” Tapley said. “We started off pretty slow.”

Head coach Steve Fisher wasn’t surprised by the way the game started.

“This is the kind of game that I expected,” Fisher said. “I’m not so sure our fans expected it, I’m not positive our players expected it. This is what you would expect when you go six miles across town to play a team that knows you and your players.”

Stephens played his best game as an Aztec last night with his near double-double. At one point he was 7-for-7 from the field.

His contributions were made even bigger because of the health of senior forward Tim Shelton, who was battling knee problems. Fisher told the media after the game that Stephens helped SDSU fight back against the toughness and grit of the Toreros.

“We reacquired that (toughness) thanks in no small part, to the best game of his career, from Deshawn Stephens,” Fisher said to the media after the game.

Stephens unleashed a rim-rattling dunk on a USD defender, which seemed to wake the Aztecs up from a slow start. Tapley said the dunk ignited the team.

“It did (energize us), seeing Deshawn hyped up and our bench getting hyped up, it was just exciting,” Tapley said. “It made us want to play harder.”

Tapley scored 25 points against Cal on Sunday and followed that effort up with another stellar performance. His 23 points led all players in scoring and he carried the Aztec offense when others were struggling to score.

“I was just feeling it,” Tapley said. “I remember my freshman year we were here and I didn’t get to play that much because I was injured. So I just wanted to come here and put the ball in the rim and that’s what I did.”

Sophomore point guard Xavier Thames, who had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists, said he was trying to find shots for Tapley because he could tell the junior guard was feeling it.

“Chase was on fire tonight, that’s why I kept on looking for him,” Thames said. “He was great tonight.”

SDSU now has 12 days off before it plays UC Riverside on Dec. 19. It will be a nice rest for a team that has gone through a grueling 11-game stretch to start the season.

Thames’ double-double was the first points and assists double-double in more than ten years. Deandre Moore was the last Aztec player to record one, which was on March 1, 2001.

Stephens’ 16 points were a career high.

The win was SDSU’s sixth straight