Point Loma-San Diego St. Preview

San Diego State has had a relatively easy time going undefeated
since losing its season opener.

With a new addition in the mix, that should not change when the
No. 18 Aztecs try for a ninth straight victory Tuesday night
against nearby Point Loma Nazarene.

San Diego State (8-1) has bounced back nicely after shooting
27.0 percent in a 62-49 loss to then-No. 9 Syracuse on the flight
deck of the USS Midway on Nov. 11. With notable victories coming
over Southern California and UCLA, the Aztecs are averaging 75.5
points while winning eight in a row by a margin of 17.9.

Chase Tapley scored 15 points and fellow guard Jamaal Franklin
added 14 as the Aztecs shook off an eight-day layoff to shoot 52.0
percent in Saturday’s 72-56 win over city rival San Diego.

“We were anxious to play. We hadn’t played a game in a long
time,” said Tapley, who has averaged 18.0 points on 56.3 percent
shooting in the last three games. “We wanted to come out and
compete and really jump on them from the start on defense. This
week we were really putting an emphasis on defense.”

While San Diego State has shot 50.9 percent in four games this
month after making 38.7 percent in five November contests, its
commitment to defense has keyed the team’s early success. Following
the loss to Syracuse, Aztec opponents are averaging 57.6 points and
shooting 37.0 percent – including 30.7 from 3-point range.

“Their length is going to bother a lot of people,” said San
Diego coach Bill Grier, whose team shot 38.3 percent. “They force
you to rush shots because of their length.”

The Aztecs could get even better on the defensive end with the
addition of 6-foot-9 James Johnson. A sophomore transfer from
Virginia, Johnson is expected to make his long-awaited debut
Tuesday after arriving at San Diego State last December. Though he
recorded nine points and eight boards in 37 minutes over six games
for the Cavaliers last season, Johnson’s size and potential
intrigues coach Steve Fisher.

“We are going to have another big body in a spot that if you
say, ‘where do we need the most help in: size,'” Fisher said. “So
we have size and strength. He’s big and strong.

“He has not played competitively in a long time, so I think it
will be nice that we’ll be able to give him an opportunity to play
a little bit.”

Johnson likely will see some extended minutes Tuesday as the
Aztecs try for a 22nd straight December victory. Though this
contest will count toward San Diego State’s season record, it’s an
exhibition for Point Loma Nazarene (2-6), loser of four in a
row.

A member of the National Christian College Athletic Association
and located approximately 15 miles from the San Diego State campus,
Point Loma is facing the Aztecs for the first time since an 88-77
loss Dec. 3, 2005.

In Saturday’s 68-58 loss to Dixie State, sophomore guard Judd
Welfringer had 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. The
Drake transfer came in with one point in one game after missing the
first six contests with an injury.