Aztecs brace for a tough Colorado State squad

by Anthony Reclusado, Assistant Sports Editor

With history on the line and the indelible mark of possibly turning a salvaged season into a record shattering campaign the San Diego State men’s basketball team will play host to Colorado State University tonight in Viejas Arena.

After the now oft-reported and disappointed nonconference start to the season, the Aztecs (16-6, 9-0 Mountain West) are on the verge of tying history with the possibility of opening conference play with 10-straight victories with a win tonight.

However, they face a Rams (12-9, 4-4 MW) team that has given them fits in the recent past and in their last matchup in Fort Collins, Colo., these two teams were tied at 62 with only a minute left and it took seven Aztec free throws to escape with the win.

“Colorado State is probably the toughest team in our league, if you combine physical and mental toughness, and it permeates from their coach,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. “That is a strength that they’ve got, they are tough minded.”

That toughness was evident in the last matchup as the Rams neutralized the Aztecs dominance on the boards, edging out SDSU 36-30, which is the only team to do so in conference play, so far.

But the battle on the glass will play second fiddle to the scoring battle between these teams, as the Rams enter this match as the highest scoring team in the MW averaging 81.2 points per game. Meanwhile, the Aztecs boast the stingiest scoring defense in the conference and the No. 2 overall scoring defense in Division I basketball, limiting opponents to 59.5 points per game.

Although it may be even blasphemous to think, but even the stalwart defense of the Aztecs might have to take a backseat tonight as the matchup between these teams tends to bring out great individual performances on both sides.

As has been the norm in MW play, the backcourt duo of sophomore guard Trey Kell and freshman guard Jeremy Hemsley, whom had a team-high in six of SDSU’s nine conference games, are two players the Aztecs will rely on tonight.

What accentuates their roles further is that they are not simply called on to score but to make plays on both ends of the court. Hemsley leads the team in assists (48) and Kell has seen an uptick in his rebounds averaging 6.67 boards in the last three games.

But what might get the Aztec faithful most excited about this matchup is a possibility of a Malik Pope sighting. The sophomore forward had two of his best games in his time with SDSU against CSU and will look to replicate that tonight.

The Aztecs, however, will have to contain the Rams redshirt seniors guard Antwan Scott and forward Tiel Daniels.

Daniels gave SDSU trouble in the last match with 15 points and six rebounds and has been consistent in conference action averaging 14.1 points per game. The leading scorer bug of the Aztecs, on the other hand, bit Scott in the last matchup.

Scott, who is averaging 18.6 points per game in MW play, was held to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting the last time he faced SDSU, but did provide seven rebounds.

Regardless, this game has the makings of a good ol’ shootout in the final minutes of the game.

The game will air on ESPN2 and will tipoff at 8 p.m. PT.

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