D-I Aztecs Top UCSD in Coach’s Debut

    The men’s basketball team opened its regular season at Cox
    Arena on Nov. 17 against cross-town Division I foe San Diego State
    University
    . Playing in
    front of 6,706 fans — the largest home-opening crowd for San Diego State
    University
    since 1999 —
    the Tritons proved they could at least compete with the Aztecs, but eventually
    fell 60-76.

    First-year head coach Chris Carlson watches intensely as his team takes on the Division I San Diego State Aztecs in his regular season debut on Nov. 17. The Tritons would eventually lose the contest 60-76. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

    Leading off with a three-pointer by junior forward Darryl
    Lawlor and ahead 9-4 early on, the Tritons controlled the opening-period tempo,
    hitting the boards to limit SDSU’s second-chance opportunities and working the
    ball around in search of the best shot. The Aztecs would not tie the score
    until 12:23 in the first half, taking their first lead with 11:45 remaining on
    a layup by Aztec forward Ryan Amoroso. However, junior forward Henry Patterson
    would respond for the Tritons with a layup of his own on the other end, tying
    it up again at 13.

    Tritons head coach Chris Carlson said he was satisfied with
    his team’s early efforts.

    “We did the things we wanted to do,” Carlson said. “We
    contested every shot pretty well. We boxed-out, rebounded and for the most part
    we took care of the ball. That allowed us to execute some things offensively
    and get some open shots, which we made.”

    Despite their size disadvantage, the Tritons battled on the
    boards and refused to let four blocked shots from the Aztecs hurt their
    confidence or aggressiveness in attacking the basket.

    Down five with over nine minutes left in the half, Patterson
    worked his way inside for another lay-up. On UCSD’s next possession, senior
    guard Clint Allard rebounded a blocked shot and passed it off to sophomore
    guard Jordan Lawley, who hit a jumper, drew a foul and converted the free throw
    to tie the score at 18 with 8:14 left to play.

    Coming out of a timeout with 6:46 in the first half, UCSD
    again trailed, 20-18, and the Aztecs turned up the intensity with full-court
    pressure on the Tritons. After a near turnover, an Aztec foul gave the Tritons
    the ball at mid-court. Junior center A.J. Maulhardt tipped an offensive rebound
    to sophomore forward Andrew Browning, who found Lawley for a three-pointer that
    put the Tritons back on top 21-20 with 6:02 left to play. One of two free
    throws by SDSU senior Matt Thomas tied the game, but junior guard Kelvin Kim
    got UCSD into the penalty with 5:17 left in the game and knocked down the first
    of a one-and-one to put the Tritons ahead again, 22-21. Unfortunately, it would
    be the last lead for the Tritons in the half, as SDSU scored five straight
    baskets and went into the break ahead 36-27.

    Despite the deficit, the Tritons played well in the opening
    half, nearly doubling their first-half output from the two team’s previous
    match-up and keeping close to a Division-I squad that has made the postseason
    two straight years.

    “We competed hard and for a half and we out-rebounded a
    very, very good team,” Carlson said. “That’s an NCAA Tournament team. I really
    believe that.”

    Junior guard Kelvin Kim uses his body to keep an San Diego State University defender from getting to the ball in the Tritons’ regular season-opening 60-76 loss to the Aztecs at Cox Arena on Nov. 17. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

    The Tritons pulled down 18 boards in the first half over the
    Aztecs’ 16, and Carlson praised his team’s ability to compete with a formidable
    squad.

    “Our effort was there,” he said. “Even when we were a step
    away or just didn’t react the right way or even when we missed shots, I thought
    we were executing for the most part.”

    The Tritons again struck first in the second half, scoring the
    first three baskets on a layup by Patterson, jumper by Allard and layup by
    Lawley to pull within one possession at 36-33. Unfortunately, a three-pointer,
    steal and an alley-oop slam by the Aztecs put the lead back to eight, the
    closest deficit the Tritons would have during the second half.

    Despite being unable to regain the lead, the Tritons
    responded to the Aztec offense throughout the second half, trailing at most by
    18 before the final score of 76-60, which represented a 20-point improvement
    from last season’s 84-48 loss at Cox Arena. UCSD also limited the Aztecs to
    their fewest points in a game between the two teams since their 2003 meeting,
    and the Tritons scored the most points against SDSU since the teams’ second
    meeting in 1981.

    Carlson was happy about the Tritons’ showing against the
    Aztecs but said the team is already looking forward to its next game.

    “I tell these guys all the time, ‘You play how you
    practice,’ and we had a great week of practice,” Carlson said. “For us it’s all
    about getting back to work on Monday, trying to have a good week of practice,
    and try and perform well against a good Grand Canyon team next Saturday, which
    is a regional game for us. It’s a huge game.”

    After a 1-1 exhibition season, UCSD’s regular-season record
    now stands at 0-1 with its next game on the road against Grand Canyon
    University on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. The Tritons open their conference schedule at
    home on Nov. 30, hosting Cal State Stanislaus with a 7:30 p.m. scheduled
    tip-off at RIMAC Arena.

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