December 03, 2014

San Diego State has had plenty of time to digest its first loss of the season, and the yearly matchup with crosstown rival San Diego gives it a good opportunity to get back to its winning ways.

The 13th-ranked Aztecs go for their ninth straight victory in the series Thursday night as they try to match the second-longest home winning streak in school history.

San Diego State opened with three straight wins, including 53-49 over No. 25 Utah at Viejas Arena on Nov. 18, before heading to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational.

The Aztecs began the tournament with a 92-87 double-overtime win over BYU on Nov. 24 and beat Pittsburgh 74-57 the next day to advance to the title game against No. 3 Arizona.

They came up just short last Wednesday, losing 61-59 after going cold in the second half. San Diego State shot 10 for 19 before halftime and 11 for 29 in the final 20 minutes.

Freshman guard Trey Kell had a four-point play with 17 seconds to go and junior forward Winston Shepard hit a 3-pointer with less than a second left, but it wasn't enough for the Aztecs (5-1).

"When you come and win two games, you want to win the third one. So we're very disappointed that we're taking home the second-place trophy, and yet this was a phenomenal experience for our team," coach Steve Fisher said.

"... We grew as a basketball team, and I know that when we go back and look and think and talk about things that were very costly to us in this game, we'll be better as we move forward with our own season."

Shepard was named the Mountain West Conference player of the week Monday after averaging 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and shooting 15 for 30 while being selected to the all-tournament team.

"We've just got to continue to get better. Continue to be aggressive," said Shepard, who leads the Aztecs with 11.8 points per game. "Arizona is a good team, and you've got to give them a lot of credit. We'll take this as a learning experience. I'm glad it's early in the season. We have a long way to go."

Shepard was held to six points and shot 1 for 6 in last season's meeting at San Diego, which nearly pulled off the upset of the No. 24 Aztecs before losing 65-64 after Duda Sanadze's 3-point shot bounced off the rim as time expired.

Matchups with the Toreros at home have been a much different story.

San Diego State has won six in a row in the series on its own court, with the last three victories coming by an average of 18.4 points, and it brings a 17-game home winning streak into this one.

The Toreros (4-3) enter after suffering a tough loss in the fifth-place game of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim on Sunday. Western Michigan closed the game on an 8-0 run, capped by a layup with 1 second left that handed San Diego a 68-66 defeat.

"We've got to bounce back, we beat ourselves the other day which is disappointing," coach Bill Grier said at Tuesday's practice. "But we have to find a way to bounce back, go over and compete against one of the best programs in the country."

San Diego boasts one of the top scorers in the nation in senior Johnny Dee, who is averaging 21.1 points while shooting 30 for 65 from 3-point range.

Dee and fellow guard Christopher Anderson combined for 43 points in last season's meeting.

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