McDaniels, Hemsley lead San Diego St. past Air Force, 81-50
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Following one of its worst defensive performances since the turn of the century in a loss to UNLV on Jan. 27, San Diego State threw a defensive curveball at the Air Force Academy on Saturday night.
“We played zone for the first time in a long time,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
Jalen McDaniels had 16 points, on 7-of-10 shooting, and 13 rebounds to help San Diego State beat Air Force 81-50 on Saturday night.
Air Force shot just 20 of 61 (32.8 percent) from the field. In SDSU’s last game, the Aztecs allowed the UNLV to shoot 58.6 percent — the highest mark against a San Diego State team in 11 seasons.
“I remember when I first started looking at State you would see the man and the full-court press,” said San Diego State’s Jeremy Hemsley. “Air Force forces you to play zone because you have to guard their offense for the entire 25 seconds. They do so many back cuts and stuff that guys can get tired real easy. I just think this was one of those games where we played zone. But I never imagined we would play it that much.”
Hemsley finished with 14 points, while Max Montana and Devin Watson scored 13 apiece, for the Aztecs.
“We made a concerted effort that we were going to play some zone and we worked on it in practice,” Dutcher said. “I like the zone and it was a step forward defensively and that is what we needed to do. Defense and rebounding wins championships; that is written on every locker room in the country. But it has to mean something.”
San Diego State (13-8, 5-5 Mountain West) had lost four of its past five games before defeating the Falcons for the 13th straight time at Viejas Arena
Air Force (8-13, 2-7) dropped its third consecutive game and its seventh in the last nine. Lavelle Scottie, the only Falcons player to score in double figures, had 16 points.
SDSU, which was never threatened in the second half, was up 35-21 at halftime after making 8 of 16 from 3-point range. Air Force hit just 2 of 13 (15 percent) 3-pointers and made just 9 of 32 (28.1 percent) from the field in the first half. Scottie was 5-of-8 shooting and scored 10 of Air Force’s 21 points.
Matt Mitchell, Hemsley and Watson made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, giving SDSU a 19-7 lead.
“We hit some early 3s and that opened the game up,” Dutcher said.
That cushion grew to 16 points before the Falcons ended a nearly six-minute scoring drought on Sid Tomes’ bucket.
Air Force: After snapping a 24-game conference road losing streak on Jan. 13 at San Jose State, the Falcons have dropped two of their last three away outings. Air Force is 6-31 all-time at SDSU.
San Diego State: The Aztecs were without senior guard Trey Kell (left ankle). Kell, who averages 10. 2 points per game, isn’t clear when he’ll be able to return. Hemsley started in place of Kell. ... SDSU’s All-America running back Rasheed Penny was honored at the game. ... Rockies manager Bud Black, a member of the SDSU Hall of Fame, was in attendance.
Air Force is at home against Colorado State on Tuesday night.
San Diego State is at Fresno State on Tuesday night.