SDSU men’s basketball takes frustrations out on New Mexico with 83-56 win

by Ryan Posner, Sports Editor

If there’s one thing that characterizes Steve Fisher-led teams, even in the most inconsistent of seasons, it’s that they won’t let one loss snowball into another.

True to form, the San Diego State men’s basketball team had its way with University of New Mexico Tuesday night with a 83-56 win in one of the more hostile venues in the Mountain West, WiesPies Arena, formerly known as The Pit.

To make sure the team didn’t fall into a losing streak, it used the very thing that broke up its three-game winning streak last Saturday against Boise State: free throws.

The Aztecs made more than a statement, opening up the game making their first 12 attempts and ended the night 20-for-24 from the line.

Sophomore guard Trey Kell said that missing a couple in a row on Saturday had a snowball effect that led the team to missing seven in a row to close out the loss.

Tuesday night it seemed to have the same effect for him, except they were all going in, making all six of his attempts from the charity stripe. He ended the night 15 points, second-best on the team.

Sophomore forward Malik Pope led the team with 20 points and, like Kell, made all six of his free-throw attempts.

Winning a game at New Mexico is never an easy task with fans that are known for their raucous.

And when the already-crowned conference champion came to town, that noise was turned up a notch.

That wasn’t a surprise for the Aztecs, though.

“Whatever has happened in the past couple years, this is now a rivalry. They want to beat us. They don’t like us. Their fans don’t like us. It is what it is,” assistant coach Dave Velazquez said Monday.

That rivalry was clearly on display when redshirt-junior Matt Shrigley was ejected for a hard foul on New Mexico redshirt-sophomore guard Elijah Brown with a little over nine minutes left to go in the game.

Brown stole the ball from Shrigley and was on a breakaway when Shrigley came from behind and swatted for the ball in an aggressive fashion.

The foul got a strong reaction from the fans as Shrigley was escorted to the locker room.

Despite Shrigley’s absence, the team closed the game out on a 21-4 run, which was a microcosm of the struggles of New Mexico throughout the contest.

The Aztecs’ defense forced the Lobos into their worst shooting night of the season, shooting 35.9 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from behind the 3-point line.

To combat the poor shooting, the Aztec defense forced the Lobos into 20 turnovers, compared to 11 for SDSU.

The Lobos started the game out on a 16-4 runs, but the Aztecs came storming back with a 16-0 run of their own to set the tempo for the rest of the game.

New Mexico’s struggles were exemplified by the stat line of its leading scorer, Brown.

Brown ended the night with 18 points, but he went 2-for-14 from the field, saving himself by making 12 of his 13 free-throw attempts.

He also turned the ball over a team-high six times.

The win on the road is a good sign for an Aztec team that looks like it will have to win the MW tournament in Las Vegas next weekend to make their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

The regular season comes to an end at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Aztecs host UNLV at Viejas Arena.