Nov 24, 2014; Lahaina, Maui, HI, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Skylar Spencer (0) hangs on the rim after dunking against Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (30) during the 2014 EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
San Diego State is off to its best start since winning a school-record 34 games four seasons ago, and may have finally put some ugly shooting behind it.
Pittsburgh put an ugly defeat behind it, though coach Jamie Dixon realizes there are plenty of things for his club to improve on.
The 15th-ranked Aztecs and Panthers will meet for the first time Tuesday night in the Maui Invitational semifinals.
San Diego State (4-0) has opened with four wins for the first time since winning its first 20 in 2010-11 – that club reached the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament and finished 34-3. It also shot 46.3 percent, but the Aztecs’ shooting has gotten progressively worse each season since.
It wasn’t clear if this squad is ready to arrest that slide after shooting 35.8 during San Diego State’s 3-0 start, including an awful 24.6 percent effort in last Thursday’s 51-27 win over a Cal State Bakersfield team that entered with a 0-3 record.
Coach Steve Fisher admitted his team was bad offensively. But he was much happier after the Aztecs shot 48.5 percent and survived for a 92-87 double-overtime win over BYU on Monday.
"This is the kind of game we’ve had for a lot of years with BYU," Fisher said.
Reserve Aqeel Quinn scored a career-high 22 points and hit a big 3-pointer in each overtime. Quinn, who finished with a career-best six 3-pointers, had made 2 of 10 shots for 10 points over his previous two games.
"I just looked down to see if I was behind the 3 and let it fly," Quinn said.
The Aztecs also enjoyed a 48-38 edge on the glass and a similar effort would no doubt help them against the Panthers, who outrebounded Division II host Chaminade 51-17 and grabbed 27 offensive rebounds in Monday’s 81-68 victory.
Pittsburgh (3-1) bounced back from Friday’s 74-71 loss at Hawaii in which it allowed the Rainbow Warriors to shoot 52.9 percent. The defensive problems remained, though, since the Silverswords connected at 51.0 percent.
"I thought we were tense," Dixon said. "I think we hit a team that played well the other day, and we’re not where we need to be defensively to be the team that plays well and win games with our defense as we have in the past. We’ve got to get better at it."
The Panthers’ assault on the backboards was led by Derrick Randall, who set a tournament record with 21 rebounds. Michael Young had career highs of 27 points and 15 boards.
Young is shooting 67.5 percent after he shot 41.3 percent as a freshman last season.
"Yes, my field goal percentage is way up from last year, and shots, I’m getting great shots and I’m going to continue to get great shots," Young said. "Just playing around the rim is what I’m most comfortable doing."
The Panthers are without two of their top perimeter players. Junior forward Durand Johnson is suspended for the season and senior guard Cameron Wright is out with a broken left foot.
The winner will face No. 3 Arizona or Kansas State in Wednesday’s championship.