This is the kind of game San Diego State was destined to have after the meltdown of our Big East/West grand sellout dreams. Instead of becoming Gonzaga of California while slicing through the CSUNs, UC Riversides and Cal State Fullertons of the world, the Aztecs were forced to crawl back to Old Mountain, with its quality competition, stealth broadcast coverage and plane rides to high altitudes. Add the noon start and thin air to a scratched X Thames and a wrist-injured Chase Tapley and you got an uphill climb.
It never felt like a game State “should’ve” won, despite taking a lead in the 2nd half. Air Force is a legitimately good offensive team. Michael Lyons was a tough little bastard, going 3-3 from distance and hitting clutch shots. Despite the last two big wins over Nevada-Reno and New Mexico, this Aztecs squad doesn’t seem to have the intangible quality of its elder iterations. Without Thames they have to rely even more heavily on the brilliance of Jamaal Franklin. Down three with 15 seconds to go State got the ball to Franklin for a tying three attempt that rimmed out. O’Brien rebounded to Rahon for an open three at the buzzer…no good. Franklin stood with his hands on his head as the future airline pilots of America rushed the court and jumped on each other. Upside is we’re a team that fans rush the court on after beating. You know what SDSU beats Air Force in? Being co-educational. That little gym was hella fulla dudes.
The Aztecs aren’t deep enough to win conference games without Thames but still almost did, on the road at altitude against a team that hit 12 threes. So put that in your pipe and wonder why you’re smoking a statistic. State finished a brutal 2-19 from the arc. Franklin’s line: 25 points, 10 boards, 6 assists, 11-12 from the line but 0-4 from three. The Aztecs went only eight deep, but really seven, with Polee only playing three minutes. Fisher must have seen enough in the first half when Polee turned it over, then took an ugly whirlybird shot attempt. Air Force is a perimeter team so height wasn’t needed, but Fisher doesn’t seem to trust James Johnson against any opponent that isn’t down by 20 late in the game. J.J. O’Brien again looked very good at times but missed a crucial late bunny. Rahon had a solid game and finally hit a three but also gave up a bad turnover late, in addition to going 2-9 from distance and missing the potential tying shot.
State fell to 4-3 in conference, back in the pack
in 5th tied for 4th place. It looks more and more like a transitional year, and what the Aztecs are transitioning to isn’t clear. Tapley is graduating and Franklin is likely gone for the NBA. X will still be around, Shepard and Spencer have lots of promise, the Sacramento recruits are on the way and Fisher is still Fisher. We’ll be okay. But battling the tough lunkheads of the Mountain West won’t be as easy or fun as the Cali bus league would have been.
Next up is Boise State on Wednesday at Viejas. Boise is
ahead of behind us in the standings. In basketball. Time to beat the crap out of them for getting us into that whole Big East thing.
*Edit: Boise State (3-4, 15-6 overall) is not ahead of us in the standings, yet still deserve getting the crap beat out of them.