Hemsley and Allen pave the way for Aztecs in 71-60 victory over Illinois State

by Ryan Posner, Assistant Sports Editor

It was a stop-and-go affair Friday night as the San Diego State men’s basketball team defeated Illinois State 71-60 in its season opener at Viejas Arena.

Thanks to a new push by the NCAA to clean up the game, 52 personal fouls were called, keeping the game from ever finding its rhythm.

“I thought on both sides there were bumps, there was contact, that to me, you play on. But if they don’t let you play on … you adjust,” head coach Steve Fisher said. “I asked one time and I said, ‘Come on,’ and (the referees) said that is what they were told to do.”

The Aztecs were still able to prevail, though, on the backs of a trusty veteran, junior guard Dakari Allen, and a young gun, freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley.

Hemsley had a stellar performance, setting an SDSU freshman record in the Fisher era with 2o points and five assists in his debut, while going 8-for-12 from the field and grabbing six rebounds.

This came after going 2-for-11 from the field in the exhibition against Cal State San Marcos.

“After the (CSUSM exhibition) I knew that wasn’t my normal self, but going into practice this week I think I sort of got back into my old ways, just being confident,” Hemsley said.

Twelve of those points came in the second half because he sat a big chunk of the first half with three fouls.

“If you say list in order guys that when you say something they listen … (Hemsley’s) right at the top,” Fisher said. “He wants to please.”

Hemsley garnered a tough assignment in Redbirds junior guard Paris Lee, who was No. 9 in the nation in steals last season.

While Hemsley tied for the team-high with three turnovers, he moved smoothly around the basket and his and-one layup with less than seven minutes in the game helped the Aztecs distance themselves for the victory.

Then there was Allen.

With sophomore guard Trey Kell forced to sit most of the game because of foul trouble, and eventually fouling out midway through the second half, Allen flourished. He set a career-high of 12 points just 13 minutes into the first half and ended the game with 16 points.

Allen was also a thorn in the Redbirds’ side on the free-throw line, going 7-for-8.

“It was a bummer to come out in the exhibition game and shoot like I did from the field, but I watched the tape and I watched my shot and (the coaches) told me I’m a good shooter,” Allen said.

For what Illinois State lacked in size compared to SDSU, it made up in persistence on defense.

The Redbirds ran a trap-zone defense, which flustered the Aztecs early on and forced them into 18 turnovers by game’s end.

Even though the pace of the game was choppy, the Aztecs kept the Redbirds shooting just 30.8 percent from the field.

Illinois State was able to make up the difference somewhat with 3-pointers. It shot 37.5 percent from behind the arc, compared to 20 percent for SDSU.

After a good performance against CSUSM, Aztecs freshman guard Ben Perez struggled from 3-point range, going 1-for-7.

Fisher was pleased with how he wasn’t afraid to shoot it, though.

“He can make those, every one of them he took I wanted him to take,” Fisher said.

Senior forward Winston Shepard cooled off a bit from his hot start against CSUSM, scoring just four points, but he tied for the team-high with eight rebounds.

Fellow senior,  center Skylar Spencer,  also grabbed eight rebounds while scoring nine points and collecting two blocks.

Next up for the Aztecs is a game Monday against No. 20 University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.