Aztecs play basketball in cool retro unis, beat Wyoming

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Aztecs win! Aztecs win!! They beat the Wyoming Cowboys, 77-68. Thank Vishnu, Buddha and baby Jesus for that. Old alma mater’s humbling crash to mediocrity has been demoralizing, as evidenced by students and fans voting with their feet by not showing up to this one (’twas an 8:10 PM tip, not ideal for a Tuesday). After 80 consecutive home sellouts it’s now been two straight not-sellouts. The stands were half-empty, folks.

In the very same building (and the Sports Arena) hometown grunge rockers Pearl Jam once sang:

Don’t see some men as half empty
See them half full of shit

I won’t dissemble. I had the game on but half-watched while having dinner, hanging out with neighbors and catching a few plays here and there. And let’s not pretend this is like, a normal time. The Aztecs are having a weird, bad season, San Diego just lost its NFL team, we’re through Day 11 of the clown president homeland and there’s much loathing in these dumb days of the new upside-down. My sense of humor is only intermittently accessible of late. I’m glad the Tecs won, of course; it just doesn’t seem that important.

Here’s a couple points about this now-concluded basketball contest.

Cowboy down

SDSU led wire to wire over a middling Wyoming squad. Malik Pope was outstanding. He looks healthy and showed flashes of being an NBA prospect again. Dakari Allen had a great game before fouling out late. Trey Kell had a quietly solid game. Mad Max Hoetzel went 0-5 from three.

And for a brief stretch in the 2nd half, it was the Montaque Gill-Caesar show.

Truth be told I had to google “trill“. Also it’s Montaque, not “Montague” as our man on the scene misspelled it in his frenzied excitement.

Anyways, Gill-Caesar hadn’t scored a point in four games and his minutes were dropping to single digits. His effort against WYO was a welcome departure from that drought, despite going 4 for 12 from the field and 0 for 5 from distance. Look at his game digest:

(First half) SUB IN 12:53
GOOD LAYUP 12:23
MISS JUMPER 11:46
MISS 3PTR 11:05
STEAL 10:41
SUB OUT 09:37

SUB IN 02:32
MISS JUMPER 02:18
MISS 3PTR 01:47
REBOUND OFF 01:16
GOOD TIPIN 01:09
MISS 3PTR 00:54

(2nd half) SUB IN 11:18
GOOD FT 10:52
GOOD FT 10:52
GOOD LAYUP 09:51
MISS JUMPER 09:02
GOOD JUMPER 08:39
MISS 3PTR 07:59
STEAL 07:45
GOOD JUMPER 07:36
FOUL 06:16
MISS 3PTR 05:41 
MISS LAYUP 05:32
SUB OUT 05:25

His stretch of six straight Aztecs points between 9:51 and 7:36 got the home bench and not-sellout crowd fired up. But note the last sequence.

Off Gill-Caesar’s missed three-pointer at 5:41, a WYO Cowboy corralled the rebound and was stripped by Valentine Izundu. Big man squared up and looked for a cutter.

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There’s our hero, all alone at the top of the key. Izundu hits him with a bounce pass in the lane.

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Gill-Caesar catches, plants and launches for a dunk. It’s gonna be awesome. Cathartic even.

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MGC elevates for the windmill slam, his teammates are ready to explode and …

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… he clanks it off the backboard! OOOOOhhhh. Look at Izundu in midair already celebrating his steal-assist, Yung Hoetz levitating, the Aztecs bench coming uncoiled and ready to get LIT. And there’s Coach Fisher, unflinching, implacable.

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It’s the one-handed cuffing that’s the problem, what our elders would call “showboating.” MGC lost his grip as he reached back for the highlight dunk.

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Doinnnggggg. No worries, they still won. Fisher immediately pulled Gill-Caesar from the game and advised him not to do that again.

Can’t find a better man

CBS Sports Networks’ play-by-play analyst Andrew Catalon told a cool story about Coach Fisher. After Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Colorado State, Fisher was walking to his car with his son, assistant coach Mark Fisher. In the parking lot they were approached by CSU senior Gian Clavell. Clavell had just torched the Aztecs for 37 points and the game-winner with 3 seconds remaining. This after being taunted all game long by Aztecs fans reminding him of his two domestic violence arrests.

Clavell had kind words for Mark Fisher, who suffers from ALS, and for his father. Coach Fisher then walked with Clavell to the Rams’ team bus, got on and congratulated the team that just beat his.

Steve Fisher, living legend.

WYO guard Justin James fouled out in the final minute, and before going to the bench he jogged over to shake Coach Fisher’s hand. Fisher was still busy coaching the basketball game, naturally. Seeing this, James placed his hands on Fisher like he was trying to absorb magic from a stone deity.

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He draws the foul! James gave our ballcoach a friendly shove as he departed, Fisher still hollering instructions to Yung Hoetz all the while.

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The deference and respect shown to Coach Fisher throughout the sport is impressive and gratifying. In a down season, it helps keep in perspective how fortunate we are to have had him so long.

Earmuffs: Old-school unis are hype

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The throwback T. Gwynn-era uni is NICE. I hereby formally encourage the San Diego State athletic program to get a decades-spanning array of throwbacks into the rotation. And one for football. May it ever be so henceforth.

Who’s got next

SDSU is in 6th place in the Mountain West with a 4-5 conference record. Reminder: 5th place earns a bye into the 2nd round of the MWC tournament.

The Aztecs travel to bucolic Fresno to play the Bulldogs – currently one game ahead of SDSU in the standings – this Saturday at 4:00 PM. No TV.

 

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Author: lemonverbena

Californian/Washingtonian, co-editor of Kabeer Thirty.

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