San Diego State heads to Spokane for a premier matchup against the 13/14 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. In just its second game of the season the Aztecs get an opportunity to gain some national relevance. A win against a ranked Gonzaga team in Spokane would almost assuredly put the Aztecs in the next top 25. This is the Aztecs first trip back to Spokane since 2010, when San Diego State came out victorious 79-76.
The big question once again will be the injuries to the team. It is still unknown whether Malik Pope (knee) will play. Matt Shrigley (ankle), Ben Perez (back) and Max Hoetzel (knee) are all likely to miss this game. Valentine Izundu (ankle), who played limited minutes against San Diego, should be available for a bigger workload.
That is great news for an Aztec team that is undersized and facing a starting frontcourt that stands 6-9 and 7-1.
The Zags defeated Utah Valley 92-69 in their season opener. Guard Silas Melson led the team with 17 points, while his backcourt mate Nigel William-Goss chipped in 16 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Gonzaga dominated the boards (51-31) and points in the paint (42-24) with their huge frontline. In their matchup with the Aztecs the Zags will want to clean up their ball security as they turned the ball over 16 times. The Bulldogs will get sophomore guard Josh Perkins who returns from a suspension for an alcohol-related misdemeanor. His presence should help calm a team that was a bit loose with the ball.
San Diego State won the City Championship against San Diego 69-59. Jeremy Hemsley (25 points) and Trey Kell (23) led the team in scoring. Even though the Aztecs won, they did not look sharp. San Diego was getting to the rim at will and they also outrebounded the Aztecs. An area that San Diego State was able to exploit against the Toreros was fast break points. With a 15-2 advantage the Aztecs were able to get some easy baskets and distance themselves on the scoreboard.
In this game the Zags will look to exploit their height advantage. The Aztecs will need to play solid interior defense without fouling. Also, San Diego State will need to keep the rebounding battle close if they want to win the game. It is also important for the Aztecs to cause turnovers.
Gonzaga showed that it could be careless with the ball; therefore San Diego State needs to win the points off turnover battle.
Offensively the Aztecs need to create fouls. They have to put the Zags in foul trouble to cause uncertainty in the defense, especially down low. San Diego State needs to limit their turnovers. It will be up to the guards to make sure that they keep the Bulldogs from getting easy points off turnovers.
Finally the Aztecs cannot shoot under 40%. This cannot be a poor shooting night. If San Diego State goes in a bad shooting slump, then the Aztecs will put themselves in a tough spot.
Make no mistake, the Aztecs are going to have a difficult time winning this game, but it is possible. The more players that miss this game, the less of a margin of error they can afford to have. Either way it will be tough, however this team has been described as the best since that 2010 team that went in to the Kennel and won. The 2016 version would like nothing more than to repeat history.
Tip-off: 9 pm PST
Radio: The Mighty 1090