A little after noon Pacific time, I was in a pretty dark place. Well, I was at work, so that goes without saying. But more so than usual even!
In my head, I was already crafting a depressing game recap about how the Aztecs were on the verge of being cast into the sea at the Maui Invitational. How the hunt for a quality nonconference win was looking grim. How one day after getting their doors blown off by No. 1 Duke, the Aztecs responded by getting their doors blown off by a team that was very decidedly not Duke.
Don’t get me wrong, Xavier is a solid Big East foe, but when you’re getting run by 19 in the first half against the Musketeers, many people would consider that time to panic.
Instead, Jalen McDaniels decided it was time to grab himself some plate lunch and fuckin’ eat.
McDaniels scored a career-high 26 points as the Aztecs roared to within three at halftime and then dominated the game’s final 15 minutes for a 79-74 win — a thrilling national TV showcase for both an NBA prospect and a team looking to build an at-large resume.
What a comeback for San Diego State. Jalen McDaniels carries the Aztecs to a come from behind win over Xavier in Maui. Musketeers are now 2-3 overall.
It’s getting to the point where we need to remind ourselves not to become numb to this.
Less than two years ago, in the wake of the Aztecs’ 2016 Mountain West Conference Championship Game victory, I spent a week leading up to the bowl game running a silly bracket-style tournament of the best wins of the Rocky Long era (hooray, content!). Have a look at the eight games I chose. The winner of the tournament as selected by you, the fans, was — I shit you not — a regular season win over Nevada.
In the 22 months since, we’ve been thoroughly spoiled with the following:
A bowl victory over Group of Five darling Houston in which D.J. Pumphrey broke the NCAA rushing record.
A win on the road at Arizona State in Rashaad Penny’s national coming out party.
The Stanford blackout.
ANOTHER win over the Sun Devils, who were ranked this time.
One month ago, Trey Kell was a tragic story. The San Diego native was a key part of a vaunted recruiting class that disappointed, producing diminishing returns every single season. The tragedy was capped with a cruel senior campaign that saw him injured and sick and injured again.
Today, the first-year head coach and the hometown senior capped off one of the most stirring comeback stories in San Diego State sports history, beating the New Mexico Lobos in an excruciating-thrilling-horrible-wonderful 82-75 come-from-behind victory in the Mountain West Tournament title game in Vegas. The Aztecs will go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons thanks to an improbable nine-game winning streak that had the kind of redemption arcs you only see in sports movies where the main character is a golden retriever or a field goal kicking mule.
As confidently predicted by yours truly several times, the Aztecs cruised to a comfortable victory against technically Power Five Arizona State in Tempe this weekend. It really happened. I was there. Here’s a crappy video I recorded to prove it: