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San Diego State vs. San Diego Christian 2014: Aztecs close non-conference slate against the Hawks

Aztecs look to continue their domination over the inner-city foes.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs (9-3) close their non-conference slate tomorrow night against the San Diego Christian College Hawks (5-5).

The Hawks play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), so that 5-5 record is against fellow NAIA teams. They've also played against three Division I teams -- Southern Utah, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount -- and lost by an average of 18.7 points.

SDSU and SDCC clash on an annual basis, and the Aztecs have won by an average of 39 points the last three seasons. The Aztecs also haven't lost this season at home, and the Hawks have lost eight of the 10 road games they've played this year.

One player to watch for the Hawks is 6-foot-8 senior forward Peter Beale-Wirsing. He leads the team with 12.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He also has four blocks on the year, good for second on the team.

J.J. O'Brien will most likely match up against Beale-Wirsing, as the Aztec senior often guards the opponent's best interior threat. This will be a fun matchup to watch in and out of the paint.

SDCC's highest-scoring guard is 6-foot-2 junior Daniel Nielson. Nielson has played in nine of 10 games, but he's only started two. He scores 11.7 points per game on a stellar 54.1 percent clip from the field -- almost 40 percent from long range. SDSU's best perimeter defender, Aqeel Quinn, will likely guard Nielson.

We will almost certainly not see Dwayne Polee II suit up. Polee was released from the hospital earlier this week to await test results after collapsing on the court against UC Riverside. He was cleared for normal activity at that time, but not athletic activity.

There's little doubt that SDSU will win this game, but there is definitely one thing for watch for that the Aztecs will need to greatly improve upon in Mountain West play: second-half defense.

SDSU has looked like two entirely different teams on defense this year: the first half team and the second half team. Steve Fisher's squad allows just 21.8 points in the first half, but it allows 30.1 points per game in the second. Opponents' field-goal percentages also spike in the second half. UC Riverside shot 20.8 percent in the first half against SDSU and 33.3 percent in the second. Same story with Cincinnati, which shot 33.3 percent in the first 20 minutes and 51.9 in the second 20.

It's beginning to look like SDSU will have four challengers for the MW crown in Colorado State, Wyoming, Boise State and UNLV. Conference games almost always contain nail-biting and nerve-racking crunch time in the second half, and SDSU will want its best defense in those moments -- not its worst.