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San Diego State basketball: Aztecs Pick Up Big Win Over Cal

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Malik Pope returns and helps Aztecs beat Cal in Sacramento

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Before their game against Cal, San Diego State Coach Steve Fisher announced that Malik Pope, Matt Shrigley, Max Hoetzel, and Valentine Izundu would all play.

The Aztecs needed every one of those players to step up in order to beat a good California team, and they did by a score of 77-65.

The win was an important first step for a San Diego State team that does not have many opportunities to pick up quality wins in their non-conference schedule.

They already blew their chance against Gonzaga and their only two other big games were against California and a home game against Arizona State at Viejas on December 10th. California is expected to be a better team as they get healthier, which will make the win look better when it comes to tournament time.

In the first half the Aztecs dominated on both ends. They outscored California 42-25 while shooting 39.4%. The Aztecs also took care of the ball extremely well. After turning the ball over 15 times against Gonzaga in Spokane, San Diego State only turned it over five times last night. On the other hand they forced 16 California turnovers, which led to a 23-5 points off turnovers margin.

In the second half the Aztecs offense slowed down as they shot 34.3%. The sputtering offensive performance allowed the Bears to make a run. However it was too little, too late. San Diego State did just enough; they got defensive stops, made timely baskets and free throws to keep the Bears at bay.

Jeremy Hemsley led five San Diego State players in double figures with 15 points. Pope had 14 points in 19 minutes before fouling out. He showed flashes of how good he is going to be this year as he took it to projected lottery pick Ivan Rabb.

Trey Kell ended with the game with 11 points and no play was bigger than his layup as he blew by Rabb to put the Aztecs up 12; icing the game with a little over a minute left. Hoetzel added 11 points of his own, and a team leading seven rebounds, and Shrigley added 10.

San Diego State is off for the rest of the week. This will give them an opportunity to rest their sore knees and ankles before they host Savannah State on November 28th. The Aztecs made a statement against Cal and they should only continue to get better as they get healthier. San Diego State looks like they will once again be a force to be reckoned with.