Hemsley, Kell, lead Aztecs to 69-59 win against Toreros
SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego State Aztecs probably didn't need any more reminders about their embarrassing loss to cross-town rival San Diego last year at Petco Park, home of baseball's Padres.
Coach Steve Fisher gave them one anyway. Before leaving the locker room for Friday night's season-opener against USD, Fisher showed his players the cover of the Toreros' media guide, which features a photo of Brett Bailey celebrating his emphatic dunk with 1.1 seconds left in USD's stunning 53-48 win.
''Just one of those things, more fuel to the fire,'' guard Trey Kell said after scoring 23 points in San Diego State's 69-59 victory.
Jeremy Hemsley led the Aztecs with 25 points and keyed the go-ahead run early in the second half that made sure the Toreros didn't pull off another upset.
Last year's game between these teams ''was a big deal to both sides,'' Fisher said. ''We had won nine straight, we were the overwhelming favorite and they beat us in every way possible.''
Fisher also wrote a message on the board in the locker room: ''Forgive but don't forget.''
''You can forgive yourself for what happened but don't forget it, and come out and play like a program that has pride and history and respect,'' Fisher said.
USD jumped to a 37-35 lead early in the second half on easy buckets by Tyler Williams and Olin Carter III.
After SDSU's Zylan Cheatham made a layup to tie it, Hemsley made the next three baskets. He made a layup and a jumper, and then hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give SDSU a 44-39 lead.
Hemsley's jumper started an 18-2 run for the Aztecs, whose defense overwhelmed the Toreros. Hemsley had a slam dunk and a jumper, and Kell made two layups to give the Aztecs a 57-41 lead.
The Toreros' only bucket during that run was a 3-pointer by Carter, who had a team-high 17 points.
''That was a big win, a good start,'' Fisher said. ''Our guards, Jeremy and Trey, they're going to have to continue to play like that offensively and will have to play better defensively.''
The Toreros were hurt by the Aztecs' big run in the second half and a 13-0 run in the first half.
''They gained momentum and ran with it, and we didn't do a good job of handling it,'' Carter said. ''I think our execution started to slip and we got sloppy defensively. We let our offense dictate our defense and we gave them some easy looks.''
The Aztecs got off to a rough start by allowing four straight layups by USD, which led for most of the first half.
SDSU also had some early shooting trouble, including three air-balls from 3-point range.
Kell kept the Aztecs in the game with a 3-pointer and a layup. He then made two free throws that started the 13-0 run. Hemsley made two 3-pointers, including one that pulled SDSU to 31-30. The Aztecs finally took the lead at 32-31 on a layup by Kell with 2:23 before halftime.
The Toreros went cold, making only one basket in the final five minutes: Carter's layup with 6.2 seconds left that trimmed their deficit to 35-33 at halftime.
USD: The Toreros, who were 9-21 last year in Lamont Smith's first season as coach, are picked to finish last again in the West Coast Conference. They played scrappy and were successful early against SDSU's defense, but couldn't keep up against the bigger Aztecs.
SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs were missing a handful of players with injuries, including 6-10 forward Malik Pope. Depth could be a concern if more players don't come back before Monday's game at Gonzaga. Only eight players saw action Friday night.
UP IN THE RAFTERS
Before the game, SDSU unveiled the 2015-16 Mountain West regular-season championship banner. That got more cheers than when they unveiled an NIT semifinalist. The Aztecs' run of six straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament ended last year when they lost in the championship game of the MWC tournament and were relegated to the NIT.
USD finished last in the West Coast Conference last year. ''I don't know their league very well, but that's not a 10th place team in any league,'' Fisher said.
USD plays its home opener Monday night against Samford.
San Diego State visits No. 14 Gonzaga on Monday night.