San Diego State guard Trey Kell drives to the basket against the East Carolina's Caleb White in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Lenny Ignelzi
November 24, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) Winston Shepard and the rest of the San Diego State Aztecs got the message from coach Steve Fisher.

Two days after one of the worst losses in his 17 seasons at SDSU, Fisher benched Shepard, fellow senior Skylar Spencer and sophomore Malik Pope.

The result was a whole lot more energy in a 79-54 victory against East Carolina on Monday night than the Aztecs showed in a stunning 49-43 loss to Little Rock on Saturday.

And Shepard still tied for the team lead, scoring 16 points to match the effort of freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley, who made three 3-pointers in an opening salvo the Pirates never recovered from.

''Tonight was what you expect to see out of the San Diego State Aztecs,'' Fisher said.

''I'm proud of how we responded, how hard we played, how we shared and moved the ball, how not only the three guys I started, but the three I didn't start, dealt with the change,'' Fisher said. ''We've got a room full of good people who want to win. They all want to play. Everybody was involved.''

Earning starts Monday night were freshman Zylan Cheatham, senior Angelo Chol and junior Dakarai Allen.

''I felt I needed to do something,'' Fisher said. ''I almost started five new guys. I felt like that was the thing to do.''

The Aztecs (3-2) responded with the energy they lacked Saturday, including hitting their first six 3-point shots during the first six minutes to take leads of 16-0 and 22-5.

Allen made a 3 on SDSU's first possession. Hemsley made three more in the opening outburst and Trey Kell, who has struggled shooting this season, hit two. Kell scored 15 and Allen 11.

The Aztecs' pushed it to 32-9 after a layup by Shepard with 9:05 before halftime.

Shepard atoned for his poor performance Saturday, when he, Spencer and Chol were held scoreless.

Shepard made an immediate impact when he came in midway through the first half, making two free throws and then a monstrous dunk. He made 10 of 15 free throws.

SDSU led 44-27 at halftime. That was one more point than it scored in Saturday's loss.

''We made sure we came out and played with energy,'' Kell said. ''We had to come out with more intensity and follow the game plan.''

As for the new lineup, ''the coaches made a statement,'' Hemsley said. ''You perform or you don't play. The older guys didn't let coming off the bench get to them.''

Lance Tejada scored 11 for East Carolina (2-2).

''We knew coming into the game that after a loss we were not going to get the same team that played against Little Rock,'' Pirates coach Jeff Lebo said. ''They really shot it way better than they've shot it all year. That really put us on our heels to start.''

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TIP-INS

East Carolina: Lebo had his playing career end when his North Carolina Tar Heels lost 92-87 to Fisher's Michigan Wolverines in the Sweet 16 in 1989. Lebo had 19 points and seven assists. With Fisher as the interim head coach, Michigan went on to win the national title. Fisher later had the interim tag removed.

San Diego State: Alum Bud Black sat courtside with his wife, Nan. Black was fired in mid-June as manager of the Padres. He's expected to take a front office job with the Los Angeles Angels.

UP NEXT

East Carolina: Plays Little Rock on Thursday in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.

San Diego State: Plays No. 14 California on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

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