Slumping Aztecs invade Lawlor tonight
For the Nevada Appeal
David Carter expects to see the San Diego State Aztecs at their best tonight.
“We’ve been in the same situation,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack men’s basketball team will host the No. 25 Aztecs at 7 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center. “They’ve lost two in a row. When that happens it seems to refocus you. We know they’ll want to win this game pretty badly.”
The Aztecs, 14-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West, are coming off a pair of league losses to UNLV (82-75) and Wyoming (58-45) last week. The Wolf Pack (10-7, 1-2) is coming off a road victory over Fresno State (68-61) last Saturday that ended a three-game losing streak.
“We know they will come out with more energy and confidence,” said Wolf Pack guard Jerry Evans of the Aztecs.
The Aztecs are led by Jamaal Franklin, last year’s Mountain West Player of the Year. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard leads San Diego State in scoring (18.1), rebounding (9.7), assists (3.3) and steals (1.4).
“He’s the best player we’ve played in a long time,” Carter said. “He can play the one through the five, He can score outside and he can drive and score inside. He can impact the game in so many areas. He’s a guy who can fill up a stat sheet.”
Franklin, though, was just 3-of-14 for 13 points in the loss to Wyoming. None of the Aztecs, however, played well that night. Wyoming held them to just nine points in the first half and 29 per cent (17-of-59) shooting for the game.
“He’s the go-to guy,” said Carter of Franklin. “The problem he presents is you can’t concentrate on one area of his game. You can’t guard against his 3-point shooting because he’ll drive on you. You can’t keep him from driving because he’ll shoot the three. He can score all over the court.”
Franklin, though, also has plenty of help. Chase Tapley, a 6-3 senior, is averaging 14.8 points and 3,4 rebounds and Xavier Thames, a 60-3 senior from Sacramento, adds 9.8 points and 2.6 assists.
Thames, though, missed the Wyoming game because of a back injury and might not play against the Wolf Pack.
“I anticipate him playing against us,” Carter said. “He’s a huge piece to their team. He’s their defensive leader. And when he’s in the game, it gives them another outside threat.”
Thames’ replacement, 6-8 freshman Winston Shepard from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, scored 10 points against Wyoming.
“They know how to win,” Carter said of San Diego State. “Physically, they are very solid, very sound. We are going to have to execute and play very well to score.”
The Wolf Pack has been very inconsistent on offense this year. During the three-game losing streak to Oregon, Wyoming and Air Force (Dec. 31 through Jan. 12) they averaged just 52 points a game.
“We have to get more consistency,” Carter said. “When you win one game like we did, you have to build on that game. But we haven’t been very consistent throughout the year.”
A big piece to the Pack offense returned to form against Fresno State. Malik Story scored 24 points after scoring just 19 points combined in the three losses to Oregon, Wyoming and Air Force.
“That was a huge game for me,” Story said. “Those three games were very frustrating for me. I don’t think I’ve had three games like that in a row since high school. But that week (before the Fresno state game) really helped me refocus and prepare myself.”
Story changed his whole scoring mentality against Fresno State. He was 11-of-12 from the free throw line after going just 2-of-3 combined in the three-game losing streak.
“I just came out with the mindset of attacking the rim,” he said. “I knew I could get to the free throw line and that is important because I didn’t feel I had to shoot so many threes and rely on my jump shot.”
The Wolf Pack athletic department is giving away white t-shirts to the first 8,500 fans to walk through the gates on Wednesday.
“We don’t care what color everybody is wearing,” Carter said. “We just have to come out and play well.”
Winning home games in the Mountain West, Carter said, is extremely important.
“You have to protect home,” he said. “Winning on the road is so tough in this league so you have to win at home.”