San Diego State men's basketball has a history with UC Riverside, and it is decidedly in favor of the Aztecs. In their home opener, San Diego State made it a perfect 10-0 versus UC Riverside by defeating the Highlanders 77-41. With the win the Aztecs extended their winning streak against California schools to 34.
Neither of these streaks were ever in jeopardy.
Senior point guard Xavier Thames scored 10 of the Aztecs first 15 points, with the home team taking an early 15-7 lead. The Aztecs continued to exploit the Highlanders and took a 38-13 lead into halftime.
The student section, known as "The Show," shouted "Show No Mercy" late in the second half. For the most part, the Aztecs complied. The home team led by 43 points with less than four minutes remaining. UCR guard Austin Quick scored all six of his points in the final four minutes to help cut the final margin to 36.
Thames led all scorers with 15 points and added four steals and an assist. Tulane transfer Josh Davis was held to zero points in the first half but finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his debut as an Aztec. Sophomore Winston Shepard quietly had a very solid all-around game with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal.
True freshman forward Dakarai Allen had an interesting stat line. Officially he was 0-for-0 shooting because he was fouled on each of his shot attempts. He made seven-of-eight from the free throw line, suggesting that he actually can shoot.
As in the exhibition game a week prior, head coach Steve Fisher rotated players liberally. The last man on the bench, walk-on Ryan Staten, even got into the game late and connected on a two-point shot. So all 12 Aztecs who suited up played and scored. By the time conference games begin, Fisher typically has a tight eight-man rotation. This year's depth may push that to nine.
Beyond securing the win, the goal for the Aztecs was to become better prepared to face No. 6 Arizona on Thursday. They started a four forward, one guard lineup of athletes with excellent height and length and defensive abilities. Where they still need to prove themselves is on perimeter shooting. Chase Tapley, James Rahon and Jamaal Franklin are all gone from last year's team. Who will step up an knock down three pointers this year, especially with the game on the line?
Thames was two-of-six on three-point shots in the opener. Redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley connected on two-of-three three-point shot attempts. The others who dared to shoot the long ball (Dwayne Polee II and Aqeel Quinn) came up empty. The Aztecs will face more zone defenses this season and their outside shooting will be put to the test.
Overall, the Aztecs took care of business, gave the sold-out arena plenty to cheer about and are positioned for another successful season on Montezuma Mesa.