Think back to when the men’s basketball schedule was released. Obviously it was the names like Gonzaga, Cal and ASU that caught your attention first. But when you finally thought about the schedule-filler games on the SDSU slate – games like USD, San Diego Christian and Savannah State – how did they play out in your mind’s eye?
Probably nothing like the way the USD and SD Christian games actually transpired, i.e. a nonexistent Aztecs bench and no offensive threats outside of the three top starters. With every early foul called on Zylan Cheatham or Dakarai Allen causing you to bite your nails down to the quick.
Well, if the Cal win last week officially turned the page on the injury-marred start, tonight seemed like continuation of a new, more exciting chapter.
What you expected those early-season gimmie wins to look like back in September was exactly what you saw tonight at Viejas Arena – a thorough, merciless 100-67 thumping of Savannah State.
Tonight you saw was a team with offensive firepower to spare. A team with 3-point shooters. A team that saw little discernible drop off when reserves subbed in. A team that shared the ball and made the extra pass.
My favorite moment of the night wasn’t the huge roar that went up when the Aztecs cracked the century mark. It wasn’t even Zylan Cheatham’s downright malicious coast-to-coast dunk or Matt Shrigley bombing treys while his bro
Valentine Izundu Skylar Spencer watched approvingly from the front row.
Even if you were there, you probably won’t remember this moment at all.
With 4:24 left in the first half, point guard Jeremy Hemsley scored a nondescript bucket. It was his first two points of the game, and it put the Aztecs up 49-28. Meaning the Aztecs had scored 47 points with arguably their most dynamic player getting blanked.
Hemsley ended up with 14 points, but neither Malik Pope or Trey Kell scored in double figures on the game. It’s because they didn’t need to; three bench players did.
That’s exactly how this was supposed to work.
Here’s the obligatory Savannah State caveat:
In addition to being very small and rather bad generally, the Tigers like to play every game like it’s the NBA All-Star game. They jack threes relentlessly and defend in only the loosest definition of the word. The Aztecs are now the fourth team to crack 100 on Savannah State (though it should be noted that they are the first to hold the sharpshooting Tigers under 70). They are ranked dead last in defense.
So yes, the Aztecs did exactly what they were supposed to do tonight.
Thing is, that’s what’s got me kind of excited.