It is easy to dismiss an opponent like Alabama State who was sporting a 345 RPI coming into this game. After three straight the losses the San Diego State basketball team could not afford to take any opponent lightly. On Monday night they did not. The Aztecs took the Hornets seriously from the tip to final whistle and left Viejas Arena with a 73-41 victory.
After three bad defensive showings San Diego State started to put things together. The Aztecs blocked seven shots and forced nine steals en route to holding Alabama State to 25% shooting from the field. This was an improvement for a defense that had allowed its last two opponents (Grand Canyon and Arizona State) to shoot over 50%. Offensively the Aztecs imposed their will, especially down low. San Diego State shot 55.6% from the field, including going 11-11 from two-point range to start the game.
Malik Pope led four Aztecs in double figures with 16 points and seven rebounds. Zylan Cheatham and Montaque Gill-Caesar each chipped in 11 points and Dakarai Allen had 10.
The Aztecs used their athleticism to take control of the game right away. They took a 22-5 lead after Cheatham made a layup from the left side of the basket. The first 22 points came from inside the paint and the Aztecs would not miss their first two point shot until they were up 25-8 and in control of the game. San Diego State would finish the game with a 38-10 advantage over Alabama State in points in the paint.
At half the Aztecs had a twenty point lead and in the second half the lead did not get any closer than 19. San Diego State led for all but 17 seconds, when the game was tied, and used their large advantage to work on different areas of their game, including a rarely seen zone.
Starting point guard and leading scorer Jeremy Hemsley was not available for the game with a foot injury. Without him on the court the Aztecs turned the ball over 15 times.
Up next for the Aztecs is the opening game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii against Southern Miss on December 22nd.