Highlanders and Aztecs mix it up in non-conference action

Dec 22, 2014 - 3:34 PM San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Alternating wins and losses over the last seven games, the San Diego State Aztecs try to break that trend on Monday as they host the UC Riverside Highlanders in non-conference action at Viejas Arena.

Already the first month of the 2014-15 season has been a trying one for the Aztecs due to the fact that they have suffered three defeats, something that didn't happen until late February last season. The team looked strong in a two-point loss to nationally-ranked Arizona in late November, but then was dwarfed by another Pac-12 program shortly thereafter as the Washington Huskies delivered a 49-36 win in San Diego.

More recently, the Aztecs were dealt a 71-62 overtime defeat by Cincinnati a little less than a week ago, but managed to bounce back with a 70-57 triumph over Ball State on Saturday at home.

As for the Highlanders, they are currently two games over .500 thanks to a very favorable schedule in the early going. Over the weekend, the program took down Houston Baptist, 78-67, at home for its fourth win in the last five outings. The lone setback during the run was a 77-66 decision versus UCLA now almost two weeks ago.

San Diego State, which has yet to bow to the Highlanders in 10 all-time matchups, the most recent of which was a 77-41 thrashing last season in San Diego, also has a streak of 45 consecutive wins against teams from the state of California.

Although he shot just 9-of-22 from the floor, Taylor Johns was still a dominant force for the Highlanders during their meeting with Houston Baptist as he not only scored 28 points, he also ripped down 17 rebounds during the double-digit victory. Jaylen Bland added 13 points and Alex Larsson another 10 as the trio combined for 29 rebounds, one more than the visitors had in total. Overall UCR, which led by as many as 17 early in the second half, dominated the glass by a 47-28 margin.

Through 10 games, Johns is leading the Highlanders in both scoring and rebounding with averages of 16.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest, not to mention accounting for half their 42 blocked shots and placing second in steals with 11. Bland produces another 14.2 ppg, although he is somehow shooting better from 3-point range (.408) than he is the floor overall (.390) entering the week.

For the 13th time the Aztecs responded to a loss by coming right back and recording a win, as they sent the Ball State Cardinals packing over the weekend with a double-digit triumph at home. Winston Shepard led the way for the hosts with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in order to fill his stat line. JJ O'Brien accounted for 13 points and six boards, while Skylar Spencer generated 10 points and six rebounds as well. At the defensive end, SDSU forced 22 turnovers and held the visitors to 41.3 percent shooting from the floor.

The leading scorer in three of the last four games, Shepard is now the only double-digit performer for the Aztecs through 11 games as he puts up 11.3 ppg. The team tends to slow the tempo and eat up clock as it works for a better shot, yet it is still converting only 40.4 percent from the field overall and a dismal 27.4 percent behind the 3-point line. Thankfully, San Diego State's defense is again leading the charge with just 56.6 ppg allowed on 37.4 percent from the field.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!