Any concern about the San Diego State sulking and lacking enthusiasm for their first round NIT game after being left out of the NCAA Tournament was quickly dispelled as the Aztecs took an early lead and beat the IPFW Mastodons, 79-55.
Malik Pope scored 15 points to lead the Aztecs in scoring, however the night was all about Winston Shepard. Shepard recorded the first triple-double in San Diego State history, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. In all, there were 10 Aztecs scored at least two points on the way to blowing out the Mastodons, who were making their first NIT appearance.
Now the Aztecs take on the Washington Huskies who defeated Long Beach State in their previous NIT game, 107-102. Senior guard Andrew Andrews is averaging 21.1 points per game and leads the Huskies in scoring. Freshman guard Dejounte Murray is the team's top rebounder with 5.9 a game and is scoring 16 points per game.
This will be a game of contrasting styles as Washington averages 84.1 points per game, while giving up 80.5 to their opponents. San Diego State prefers low scoring games; they score 68.4 points, while allowing 60.1 a game. Dictating tempo will be an important key to this game as the team that controls the game will keep the score in a range that is comfortable.
Both teams are filled with strong, athletic players. The difference is that the Aztecs boast a deeper bench and are one of the best defenses in the nation. This has been a common theme this season during Aztecs game. Teams come in averaging a lot of points and leave the game with either a season low in points or shooting percentage.
San Diego State's defense will take you out of the game and with what is expected to be a nearly sold out crowd cheering them on the Aztecs players should be able to rise up to a dangerous Washington team.
Pressuring the Huskies and wearing them out will likely be in the game plan since the Washington bench isn't nearly as talented as the Aztecs bench. Offensively the Aztecs will need to take care of the ball and limit turnovers. If San Diego State gets hot from the field then it will be a tall task for a Husky offense that looks to get in shootouts.
Monday's game should be a dogfight between a tested Pac-12 Washington team and the defensively stout San Diego State Aztecs. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 PST and will be shown on ESPN2.