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.