GAME NOTES: With the Mountain West Conference Tournament just days away, the Air Force Falcons and San Diego State Aztecs continue to jockey for final seedings as they meet at Viejas Arena on Wednesday night.
San Diego State comes into the week with a record of 8-6 in conference play, giving the team a chance for some upward mobility when it comes to the final standings in the MWC. The Aztecs have been out of action now for a week, since bowing to 14th-ranked New Mexico in The Pit last Wednesday, 70-60. The defeat snapped a brief two-game win streak for SDSU.
As for the Falcons, they've hit a very rough patch in the schedule, bowing in all but two of the last seven outings. Over the weekend the Academy was held to just 41 points in a 15-point road loss at Fresno State, dropping the Falcons to 7-7 in league play with this game and a meeting against New Mexico this weekend remaining in the regular season.
Air Force stunned the Aztecs in the first meeting of the season early last month with a 70-67 triumph at Clune Arena, but still it is SDSU that owns a 47-22 advantage in the all-time series. This time around the Aztecs will have both Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley operating at full capacity after the former missed all of the first meeting with a lower back strain, and the latter was limited by a right wrist sprain.
The offense more than sputtered for the Falcons over the weekend, the team shooting not just 27.9 percent from the field but also 4-of-20 behind the 3- point line in the setback versus Fresno State at the Save Mart Center. Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers, Mike Fitzgerald was able to score in double figures for Air Force, finishing with 11 points. On a positive note, the Falcons did hold the Bulldogs to only 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and 2-of-14 on the perimeter.
Currently second on the team in scoring with an even 10.0 ppg over the course of 27 contests, Fitzgerald is shooting a solid 50.6 percent from the floor and is also one of the better rebounders on the squad with four boards per outing. Just ahead of Fitzgerald in both scoring and rebounding is Michael Lyons with his 18.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg, picking up a significant portion of his points at the free-throw line where he is 91-of-123 at the moment.
Both SDSU and the Lobos made a total of 21 field goals during their clash last week, the difference being that the Aztecs took 14 more attempts from the floor to make it happen as they bowed by double digits in Albuquerque. Jamaal Franklin tried to carry the visitors with 16 points and nine rebounds, but he shot only 3-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-7 beyond the arc where the squad was a dismal 4-of-23 overall. JJ O'Brien pitched in with 10 points and nine rebounds of his own as well.
A contender for MWC Player of the Year honors, Franklin leads the Aztecs in not just scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg) from his guard position, he is also first with 85 assists and 41 steals, not to mention second in blocked shots for the group with 23 over the course of his 27 appearances. Because of the efforts of Franklin, the Aztecs are beating opponents on the glass by almost four per contest and outscoring teams by close to 10 ppg per outing as well, Tapley (13.4 ppg) is first on the unit with 58 made 3- pointers, but the team as a whole is shooting just 33.4 percent out on the perimeter.
With all of the key players ready to go in this meeting and there still being some movement to be made in the conference standings, expect to see the Aztecs put their best foot forward at home.
Game Date and Time