Devin Watson scored 26 points, Malik Pope blocked four shots and grabbed nine rebounds, and the Aztecs defeated the Toreros 66-57 on Thursday night in the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Playing without senior guard Trey Kell, the Aztecs got off to a relatively slow start. They trailed 7-6 going into the first media timeout of the game with very little flow on either side of the ball. Coming out of the timeout, though, they were able to lock in defensively. In the game’s next nine minutes, San Diego State did not allow the Toreros to make a field goal. The strong defense ignited a 21-6 run that allowed Brian Dutcher’s team to take a 14-point lead with 4:05 to play in the first half.
The Toreros were able to figure out the Aztecs’ defense a bit in the final minutes, as they cut the deficit to eight (30-22) going into the break.
USD only shot 27.3 percent in the first half; a season-low. The 22 points was a season-low for Lamont Smith’s team as well.
The Toreros were able to cut the Aztecs lead to four coming out of halftime, when Isaiah Wright knocked down a three in transition with 16:04 to play. However, that would be the closest they would get in the contest.
Following a timeout by Brian Dutcher, San Diego State promptly went on a 9-2 run to extend the lead back up to double-digits. With a double-digit lead, the Aztecs held the Toreros at an arm’s length away in the game’s final thirteen minutes. The Aztecs ended up outscoring the Toreros 36-35 in the half.
For the Aztecs, it was the Devin Watson show all night long. With Trey Kell nursing an ankle injury, the fourth year junior took control of the offense and played all 40 minutes. He ended up with 26 points (7-11 shooting), three rebounds, one assist, and five steals. He only turned the ball over once.
“I just had it going… I was in a rhythm offensively. It just worked for me tonight,” Watson said following the performance.
Questionable before he went through pregame warmups and was deemed good to go, Malik Pope filled the stat sheet. While he only scored six points, the senior forward led all players with nine rebounds, set a career-high with four blocks, had two steals, and dished out two assists. He was everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the first half. It was a valiant performance.
Kameron Rooks also played a big role defensively. The 7’1″ big man scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked two shots.
Starting in place of Trey Kell, Jeremy Hemsley scored 13 points. Matt Mitchell did not miss a shot all night, going 4-4 for 13 points.
The Aztecs (6-2) only recorded six assists, but shot 47% on the night. They also were able to capitalize on 75% of their free throws (21-28) and win the rebounding battle (37-31).
Meanwhile, Toreros (5-1) shot 37.7% from the field and had trouble from three-point land all night long. They missed some good looks and only shot 7-30 (23.7%) from three.
USD was led by Isaiah Pineiro, who scored 19 points on 8/18 shooting. Olin Carter III (12 points) and Isaiah Wright (10 points) were the only other Toreros in double figures.
The Aztecs improved their record in Jenny Craig Pavilion to 10-8, and have also won 11 out of the past 12 games versus their in-city rivals.
The Aztecs return to the Mesa to take on Bradley University on December 3.
The Toreros will head to UC Santa Barbara to play the Guachos on December 2.