Pope, Hemsley lead SDSU to 71-61 win vs San Diego Christian
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- San Diego State was far from its best against little San Diego Christian, which doesn't even have its own gym.
Two nights after a five-point loss at No. 16 Utah, the Aztecs were at times listless and sloppy in beating the Hawks 71-61 on Wednesday night. Malik Pope and Jeremy Hemsley scored 14 points apiece for the Aztecs.
SDSU (2-1) had no trouble in beating the NAIA team from suburban Santee for the sixth straight season, but seemed out of sorts at times.
"We weren't doing a good job being energetic," said Hemsley, a freshman.
"Had we quit at halftime, I'd have felt like we made progress but we had to play a second half," coach Steve Fisher said. "We didn't and they did, and they are leaving here feeling really good about themselves. And that's a positive for them."
Fisher took part of the blame for that, saying, "the lineup was a little bit disjointed." He said the Aztecs tried to full-court press and had three players on the floor who probably shouldn't have been out there together."
Winston Shepard didn't play due to a sprained ankle and Trey Kell missed all three shots he took in the first half, including two 3-pointers, before sitting out the second half with a sore right knee.
Hawks coach Edgar Mendez, who went to San Diego's Crawford High, said Shepard "is like their soul and spirit and he livens everybody up. That's a big difference. We were happy when we heard that."
The most energy in the arena all night came when SDSU's Zylan Cheatham made a thunderous dunk with 3:53 left for a 66-49 lead. Cheatham, who scored 13, was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
The undermanned Hawks still played with energy, including late in the game when they made 3-pointers on four straight possessions. The final three were by reserve forward Trevor English, who finished with a game-high 21 points. He made six 3-pointers.
"I don't think it's a rivalry for State, but for us, just to come here and play in this arena, I mean, we don't even have a gym," English said. "The student section is bigger than our school, so we have to bring a little extra sixth man with us. I think it all comes from our bench."
Dalante Dunklin added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks.
San Diego Christian, which has to use a junior college gym for practices and home games, considered this an exhibition game.
This was the closest margin in the six games between the schools. SDSU has outscored the Hawks 498-330. The Hawks lost to the Aztecs by 52 points two years ago and by 22 last year.
"We wanted to beat that and I feel like we did pretty good," English said.
San Diego Christian has about 850 students, including 500 on campus.
"As a fan of San Diego basketball, I grew up here and it's always fun for me to root for the Aztecs as well and this is for us a great game for our players," Mendez said. " In recruiting, this helps so much. We tell them, `You get to be a Division I player for a night just like I get to be a Division I coach for a day.'"
San Diego Christian: The Hawks don't have a starter taller than 6-foot-7.
San Diego State: Shepard received a ball before the game from coach Steve Fisher commemorating his joining the 1,000-point club. He reached the plateau in the loss at Utah and has 1,007 career points.
San Diego Christian visits Cal State San Marcos on Saturday night.
San Diego State hosts Little Rock on Saturday.