Romanski, SDSU walk off over Nevada

By: Alex Riggins

San Diego State senior catcher Jake Romanski finished his 4-for-5 day from the plate with a walk-off RBI single to right field that scored Tim Zier from second base to give the Aztecs (16-15, 7-4 MW) a 5-4 win over Nevada (17-13, 5-6)on Saturday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

“It’s a great feeling, it’s the best,” Romanski said of being mobbed by his teammates after his game-winning hit. “There’s 35 guys competing for a win, and when that happens it’s awesome.”

It’s the second time this season that Romanski has driven in the walk-off run, but the first time he’s done it with a hit. On March 24 against UNLV, Romanski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Aztecs a 5-4 win over the Rebels.

On Saturday after falling behind Nevada 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning, SDSU scored twice in the bottom of the sixth and once in the eighth on a Ty France solo home run to set up Romanski’s ninth-inning heroics. Freshman closer Bubba Derby (3-1) faced just one batter in the ninth but it was enough to earn the win, while Nevada’s Sean Prihar (2-1) took the loss for the Wolf Pack.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth Prihar hit Zier in the back with a fastball to put him on first base. Zier advanced to second base on a single to left field by Ryan Muno, which chased Prihar and made Nevada bring in right-handed pitcher Michael Fain to face Romanski.

Romanski hit the ball hard enough into right field that it seemed like SDSU third-base coach Mark Martinez might hold Zier at third base. But Martinez had no such plan and Zier slid headfirst into home plate to beat the high throw from Nevada right fielder Brooks Klein.

“Tim’s got major wheels, he’s a fast guy and he’s probably running right when he saw it off the bat, so I was excited when I hit it,” Romanski said.

Romanski finished the day 4-for-5 with a double, a run scored and the game-winning RBI, while Zier was 2-for-4 with the game-winning run.

Romanski’s big hit wouldn’t have been possible though without France’s third home run of the year. The freshman third baseman led off the eighth inning with a solo shot to left-center field off Nevada right-hander Colby Blueberg to tie the game at 4-4. SDSU relievers Justin Hepner and Bubba Derby held the Wolf Pack scoreless in the ninth to give Zier and Romanski the chance to win it.

Nevada jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth off SDSU starter Philip Walby when a two-out Kyle Hunt double scored Ryan Teel from first base. The Aztecs tied it at 1-1 in the fourth inning when Greg Allen singled home Danny Sheehan, who had reached second following a single and an Evan Potter sacrifice bunt.

Despite the early run, it looked as though Walby might match last night’s performance by teammate Michael Cederoth, who struck out 14 Wolf Pack batters on Friday. On Saturday, Walby struck out six through the first three innings and looked to be cruising, but he ran into trouble again in the top of the fourth inning when Nevada’s Brett Jones hit a mammoth home run over the Aztec Wall of Fame in right field.

In the top of the sixth, Kyle Hunt again came up with a big hit for Nevada, driving in two runs with a two-out single to center field to give his team a 4-1 lead.

The three-run lead was short lived for Nevada, as SDSU scored twice in the bottom half of the sixth. Romanski led off the rally with a single, then the Aztecs loaded the bases for Steven Pallares, who hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Romanski from third. Sheehan followed Pallares with a hit-and-run single to left field that scored Haynal from second and moved France from first to third. But Greg Allen struck out to end the inning and leave the Aztecs trailing the Wolf Pack 4-3 until France’s blast in the eighth and Romanski’s walk-off in the ninth.

Notes

Sheehan had a good day at offensively, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.

Brad Haynal returned to the SDSU lineup after missing 11 games with a hairline fracture in his hand. He was 1-for-2 with a run scored and also reached safely on a catcher’s interference.

Coach Tony Gwynn asked France to bunt in both the fourth and sixth inning with runners on first and second base. He was successful both times, laying down a nice sacrifice in the fourth and getting credited with a hit in the sixth when his bunt was too far from the pitcher for a play to be made at first. In the eighth France finally got to swing – and deposited a 400-foot shot over the fence in left-center

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Muno, RoBards lead SDSU to home victory over UC Riverside

By: Alex Riggins

San Diego State scored early and often to beat visiting UC Riverside 10-2 at Tony Gwynn Stadium on Monday night in a midseason non-conference game.

The Aztecs (14-14) scored three runs in the first inning, a run each in the second and third innings and another three runs in the fourth inning. They added the final two runs in the seventh inning while already leading 8-1.

Sophomore first baseman Ryan Muno blasted a three-run home run to left field in the fourth inning to give the Aztecs a commanding 8-1 lead. It was Muno’s first homer of the season and came in just his 10th game. He missed 18 games with a broken hand that he suffered in practice following the opening series of the season.

“It was really frustrating to sit on the bench and watch guys play for 18 games,” Muno said.

In his third at-bat on Monday night, he erased some of the frustration with a towering drive over the left field wall.

“On the 3-2 count [Antonio Gonzales] left one over the plate and it was inside and I just turned on it,” Muno said. “It felt really good, especially here at night where the ball doesn’t really carry, you have to hit it good to get it out of here.”

Muno finished the game 2-for-3 with the home run, a double, two walks, three RBIs and three runs scored, including twice scoring from third base on passed balls.

SDSU sophomore left-hander Mike RoBards got the weekday start for the Aztecs, his third of the season, and pitched a solid seven innings to earn the win and move to 2-0 on the year while lowering his ERA from 3.52 to 2.82.

RoBards was excellent on Monday night, painting the corners of the plate with fastballs and mixing in devastating curveballs and changeups. He finished his seven innings with six strikeouts, five hits, one walk and one earned run. The only run he allowed was a Joe Chavez home run in the third inning that Chavez blasted to straightaway-center field.

“I hit my spots and let them put it in play,” RoBards said after the game. He said his goal was to get UC Riverside batters to ground out. “In big situations I went to my changeup to have them roll over. I just tried to hit my spot and keep it low.”

RoBards said he doesn’t feel like he’s totally earned the fourth starter position, though he said he feels more comfortable and confident when he starts than when he pitches in relief. He has made three starts this season and five relief appearances.

Besides Michael Cederoth, Philip Walby and Ryan Doran – the regular weekend starters who have started seven games each – RoBards is the only Aztec pitcher to have started multiple games. Ethan Miller, TJ Kendzora, Travis Pitcher and Cody Thompson have each started one game apiece. But with a performance like tonight, it will be hard to keep RoBards off the mound for weekday starts.

Kendzora pitched the final two innings for the Aztecs, giving up a run on two hits and a walk while striking out one.

Senior catcher Jake Romanski got SDSU on the board in the first inning with a bases-loaded single that scored Greg Allen and Tim Zier. Allen had led off the first inning with a long double off the wall to left-center field to start the first-inning rally and finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. Zier scored twice and was 1-for-3 with a walk.

Left fielder Danny Sheehan scored a run and reached base safely twice, right fielder Steven Pallares was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and shortstop Evan Potter drove in a run.

SDSU and UC Riverside will play again tomorrow in Riverside as part of a two game home-and-home series.

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Early offense gives SDSU big win over Seton Hall

San Diego State scored early and often to jump out to a big lead over Seton Hall and clinch the series victory. Freshman third baseman Tyler France hit his first career home run as the Aztecs climbed back above .500.

By: Alex Riggins

San Diego State (6-5) collected 13 hits – including three by slumping shortstop Evan Potter – to secure a 10-4 victory over Seton Hall (0-7) on Saturday in the second game of their three game weekend series.

SDSU scored in every one of the first five innings with one run in the first, four in the second, three in the third, and one each in the fourth and fifth.

Potter, who entered the game hitting .034 with just one hit in 29 at-bats, went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base to raise his average to .121.

A day after going 3-for-4 and scoring three runs, center fielder Greg Allen again scored three runs, including the Aztec’s first run of the game. Allen singled to leadoff the bottom of the first inning and later came around to score on a Jake Romanski single.

In the bottom of the second inning, right fielder Avondre Bollar led off with a single followed by a Potter bunt-single and a walk by Allen to load the bases. Tim Zier followed with an RBI walk, then John Spirk drove in two runs with a single to right field.

Allen scored from second base on the hit, but only after sliding well behind home plate to avoid the catcher’s tag, then diving back to touch the plate.

“That’s just one of those wacky plays that you don’t really anticipate or practice for,” Allen said after the game.

Catcher Brad Haynal followed with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Zier from third. Seton Hall needed Connor Delepine to relieve starter Anthony Elia to finally get out of the inning when Jake Romanski flied out to right field.

Danny Sheehan led off the bottom of the third inning getting hit by a pitch, which prompted Seton Hall to pull Delepine in favor of Luke Cahill. The move didn’t pay off for the Pirates; the next batter Tyler France took Cahill deep to right-center field for the Aztec’s first home run of the season and the first of his career.

The Aztecs scored again in the third on a blooper to left field off the bat of Tim Zier that scored Evan Potter from second base with two outs.

France collected his third RBI in the fourth inning when he grounded out to second with the bases loaded. Spirk got his third RBI of the game when his single in the fifth inning drove in Allen for the third time.

SDSU starter Philip Walby (1-1) picked up the win, following his strong outing from last Friday against Oregon State with a nice start again on Saturday. Walby went five innings and didn’t allow a run while giving up just four hits and striking out two, though he did walk four batters.

Mitch Bluman struck out two batters and gave up a run pitching the sixth and seventh. Tyler Sapp pitched the eighth and didn’t allow a run while Cody Thompson struggled in the ninth, giving up three runs before retiring the side.

Anthony Elia (0-1) took the loss for Seton Hall after pitching just 1.2 innings while giving up five earned runs on five hits and three walks.

Notes

SDSU stole two bases on two attempts on Saturday, making them a perfect 9-for-9 in the series through the first two games.

Brad Haynal struck out four times on Friday night while playing DH, but on Saturday afternoon while catching had a much better day offensively. Haynal’s first at-bat he crushed a line drive to the warning track in left field that was caught. His second at-bat was an RBI sacrifice fly, and he walked and was hit by a pitch, as well as scoring a run.

John Spirk has played well while filling in for injured starter Ryan Muno at first base. Spirk’s batting .364 and his three RBI on Saturday doubled his season total to six.

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SDSU walks-off against Seton Hall

The San Diego State baseball team moved back to .500 with a win over Seton Hall in the first game of their three-game series. 

By: Alex Riggins

Greg Allen’s huge night at the plate and in center field helped San Diego State beat Seton Hall 4-3 on Friday night at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The Aztecs (5-5) beat the Pirates (0-6) in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning when designated hitter Brad Haynal was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Allen scored the winning run – his third of the night.

Allen, the Aztec’s sophomore leadoff hitter, finished the game hitting 3-for-4 to raise his season average to .372. He also scored three runs, had one RBI, was hit by a pitch and stole two bases. But the most important play he made was on defense.

With the score tied 3-3 and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Seton Hall’s Kyle Grimm tried to score from second base on a single up the middle by Dillon Hamlin. Allen scooped up the ball and threw a laser from center field to home plate. The throw was belt high and just to the third-base side of home plate – in the perfect spot for Aztec catcher Jake Romanski to block the plate and apply the tag to Grimm. The play kept the score tied and set up Allen’s game winning run an inning later.

SDSU freshman closer Bubba Derby (1-0) earned his first win ever by pitching two innings and not allowing any runs. Seton Hall reliever Brian Gilbert (0-2) took the loss when he was unable to record an out in the ninth inning after pitching well in the seventh and eighth.

SDSU ace Michael Cederoth started for the Aztecs but didn’t factor into the decision. He pitched out of early jams before being pulled in the seventh inning after allowing a one-out double. Cederoth’s final line was 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 5 H and 6 K.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the first inning, but Cederoth escaped when he got Seton Hall shortstop Giuseppe Papaccio to fly out to center. In the second inning the Pirates put a man on third base before Cederoth again escaped with a fly out to center.

Cederoth found his groove in the third inning, striking out the first two batters of the inning and getting the third to ground out for a quick three-up, three-down inning.

The Aztecs manufactured a run in the first inning following Greg Allen’s leadoff single. Tim Zier followed with a sacrifice bunt that advanced Allen to second. He then stole third base and scored on a John Spirk infield single to third base.

Allen was the Aztec’s catalyst again in the third inning when he led of the inning being hit by a pitch from Pirates’ starter Jon Prosinski. Allen stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored when first baseman John Spirk hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

Seton Hall manufactured a run of their own in the top of the fifth inning to cut the lead to 2-1. Ryan Sullivan reached on an infield single to third, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Zack Granite. Sullivan scored on a double to deep right field by Mike Genovese.

The Aztecs got the run back in the sixth when Allen came to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs. Allen smacked a single into left field that scored one run, but he was caught in a pickle trying to advance to second base. Seton Hall eventually threw the ball home to tag out Avondre Bollar, saving another run from scoring and ending the inning.

In the top of the seventh inning, Seton Hall chased Cederoth out of the game and tied the score. Seton Hall touched up SDSU relievers Mike Robards and Ethan Miller for two runs before a running mistake ended the threat. Second baseman Mike Genovese tried to score from third base on a wild pitch by Miller, but Romanski corralled the ball and tossed to Miller covering home in plenty of time to beat the runner at the plate.

Seton Hall threatened again in the eighth before Allen’s throw from center quieted the rally, all of which lead up to the ninth inning walk-off victory.

Notes

SDSU was 7-for-7 stealing bases on Friday night, including two apiece for Allen and Romanski. Seton Hall catcher Dillon Hamlin seemed supremely overmatched by the Aztec running game.

Brad Haynal struck out in all four plate-appearances before his game-winning HBP.

SDSU shortstop Evan Potter went 0-for-4 and saw his average dip to .034. He now has one hit in 29 at-bats.

Speaking of struggling shortstops, Seton Hall’s Giuseppe Papaccio made one fielding error and two throwing errors in the game and now has five errors in six games.

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Aztecs cruise to seventh-straight ‘City Championship’

Tapley and Franklin lead SDSU past USD again as defense stifles Toreros star Johnny Dee. Tapley establishes himself as Aztecs’ most important player. 

By: Alex Riggins

The San Diego State Aztecs beat the University of San Diego Toreros for the seventh straight time on Saturday night, winning the “City Championship” 72-56 at Viejas Arena.

The 18th-ranked Aztecs were led by 15 points from senior guard Chase Tapley and 14 points and eight rebounds from junior wing Jamaal Franklin. Senior forward DeShawn Stephens added 11 points and six rebounds, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor.

Midway through the first half, USD took an 18-16 lead on a layup by Mike Davis, but then SDSU locked down on defense. After a timeout, JJ O’Brien hit a jumper to tie the game; following a USD miss, James Rahon hit a jumper to give the Aztecs a 20-18 lead.

Stephens made a bucket to put the Aztecs up 22-18, and then Tapley nailed back-to-back triples. Four minutes and a 12-0 run later, the Aztecs had turned a two-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

Mike Davis hit a 3-pointer to pull the Toreros within six, 32-26, with 2:35 left in the first half. From there the Aztecs scored the final seven points and held the Toreros scoreless to take a 39-26 lead into the half.

The Aztecs held Toreros leading scorer Johnny Dee scoreless in the first half. Dee got it going a little bit in the second half, scoring nine points on 3-of-3 shooting, but it was too little, too late.

The Aztecs’ guards were too big and strong for the Toreros. 6-foot-3 point guard Xavier Thames and 6-foot-8 backup point guard Winston Shepard took turns covering USD’s 5-foot-7 point guard Chris Anderson. 6-foot-5 Jamaal Franklin and 6-foot-3 Chase Tapley took turns on the 6-foot Dee.

The Aztecs’ forwards were too quick and agile for USD’s big men. Stephens and O’Brien combined to shoot 8-of-10 from the field, mostly on layups and dunks.

Without Virginia transfer James Johnson – who sat out his final game as a redshirt and who will see time next Tuesday against Point Loma Nazarene University – true freshman Skylar Spencer continued his development as a low post presence. He scored three points, grabbed six rebounds and had an assist and three blocks in just 19 minutes on the floor.

Fellow freshman Winston Shepard added four points and had his first career game with more assists (2) than turnovers (1).

Tapley passes former teammate on all-time scoring list 

Senior guard Chase Tapley passed former SDSU point guard DJ Gay on the Aztecs’ all-time scoring list, taking over 16th place with 1,189 career points. Like Gay his senior season, Tapley may not be the best player on the team ­– that honor belongs to future-NBA draft pick Franklin – but Tapley is easily the team’s most important player. Saturday’s victory over USD perfectly encapsulates that importance.

Tapley’s stat line was nice by itself: 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 on 3-pointers and 5-of-5 on free-throws. He also had one rebound, two assists, two blocks, a steal and just one turnover. But his game goes beyond the stats.

He was one of the main forces behind shutting down Johnny Dee, who entered the game averaging 15 points and shooting 45-percent from 3-point range, but scored just nine points and was 1-of-5 on 3-pointers against the Aztecs.

In the first half, Tapley terrorized Dee. He forced Dee into two air balls, and on one possession, he harassed Dee near the half court line, finally batting the ball off of Dee’s foot and corralling the loose ball. He was credited with just that steal, but on another defensive possession he poked the ball from the hands of a driving USD player, knocking it out of bounds off the players’ knee.

On the last play of the first half, Tapley made two free throws, then raced down court to block a fast break layup by Chris Anderson, assuring the Toreros didn’t gain any momentum going into the break. His second block came in the second half on a Dee 3-point attempt.

It’s not just the “intangibles” that set Tapley apart as the most important player on the Aztecs’ roster. While traditional stats point to Franklin as the best player – he averages 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game – the advanced stats show Tapley as the team’s best player. He is much more efficient that Franklin, using just 21.7-percent of the possessions while he’s on the court compared to Franklin’s 33.1-percent.

He shoots better than Franklin, too. His eFG% – a stat that combines 2-point and 3-point attempts, but gives more weight to 3-point attempts – is 54.7-percent compared to Franklin’s 50.4-percent. Tapley’s turnover rate is about half of Franklin’s, his block rate is nearly identical, his steal rate is better, and he commits far less fouls per 40 minutes.

What all of those stats mean is that if Tapley demanded the ball as much as Franklin does, his stats would actually be superior to Franklin’s. And it reinforces what most fans probably already knew – Chase Tapley, like DJ Gay before him, is the most important Aztec on this team.

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Aztecs survive Trojans, continue Pac-12 dominance

I just got back to San Diego after traveling to Los Angeles to watch the San Diego State Aztecs battle with the University of Southern California Trojans. The Aztecs held on for a 66-60 victory in another chippy game. Here are a few quick thoughts from the game:

  • Skylar Spencer saved the day. The Aztecs don’t hang on to win this game without the 6-foot-9 true freshman. The Los Angeles native played 30 minutes in just his fifth college basketball game, mostly because of a hip injury that forced senior forward DeShawn Stephens to miss all but five minutes. Spencer’s stats might not look spectacular – two points, 11 rebounds and three fouls. But there is no way a stat sheet can contextualize what he did defensively. Guarding two different 7-foot tall players, Spencer more than held his own. He battled down low with guys that were three-to-four inches taller than he, and did a commendable job. When Spencer wasn’t on the floor, the Aztecs turned to 6-foot-7 JJ O’Brien to try to cover 7-foot Dewayne Dedmon and 7-foot-2 Omar Oraby. O’Brien did alright for himself considering the size difference, but he had to play in front the Trojan’s two huge centers to try to deny the ball being passed to them down low. When Spencer was guarding them, he could guard them from behind with help defense from the guards. Spencer made all the difference defensively, helping hold the two USC centers to just 13 points between the two of them. He was not credited with any blocks, but he altered multiple shots. He played 13 more minutes than fellow freshman and much heralded Winston Shepard, 11 more minutes than transfer Dwayne Polee II and played the same amount as the other newcomer, JJ O’Brien. In addition to his game changing performance tonight, he also asserted himself as a viable option down the road against teams with tough post players, like UNLV. Coach Fisher should now be able to trust his freshman forward, even in important conference games, because Spencer showed Sunday night that he can handle the pressure.
  • James Rahon found his shooting stroke, for one game at least. Rahon missed his first shot of the game, then proceeded to shoot 6-of-6 the rest of the game, including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. When he swished his first 3-ball, a light seemed to switch on in his brain, and if memory serves, he didn’t hit the rim again after that. He had caught fire, and every shot he was putting up was finding nothing but nylon. He finished the first half with 12 points, and then hardly shot in the second half. He made two second half free-throws, and then with 65 seconds remaining and the Aztecs leading by four, Rahon rose above his defender and buried a 3-pointer to effectively end the game. It was the type of vintage Rahon performance not seen since the 2010-2011 season. Aztec fans spent last season, and the first four games of this season, waiting for it to happen, but it couldn’t have come in a more important game, considering that Rahon earned the start in place of the injured Chase Tapley.
  • JJ O’Brien had seemed close to breaking out this season, and finally got some shots to fall. For the first four games of the season, it seemed as if O’Brien was just a little rusty. He might be excuse after sitting out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but through the first four game this year, there was the feeling that he was close to a break-out performance. On Sunday night, he finally got the layups and short jumpers to fall – the types of shots that through the first four games would rattle around the rim before rolling out. He finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including at least two occasions when he attacked the rim against the Trojan’s much larger centers and was still able to convert layups. Just as it did for Rahon, a light finally seemed to click for O’Brien in this game. When O’Brien provides a legitimate low-post threat, the Aztecs are a much more dangerous team.
  • Winston Shepard played like it was just his second game college game, because it was. After playing against Syracuse for the Battle on the Midway, Shepard was suspended for three games for a minor NCAA infraction. On Sunday against USC, he looked like a true freshman with very little experience. In 17 minutes, he had just two points, two rebounds and an assist while committing three turnovers and being whistled for a technical foul. He looked confused while running the point at times, and was visibly frustrated, drawing the technical foul for complaining to the referee for a call he though he should have got. He is obviously a talented basketball player and should get better as the season progresses, but as of now he still looks very young and inexperienced.
  • Jamaal Franklin was doing Jamaal Franklin things again. Franklin scored 17 points and also added nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and a highlight-reel block. His two-handed, slashing dunk in the second half to give the Aztecs a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game was surpassed in excellence only by his first half rejection in which he came from all the way across the lane to swat a fast-break layup. That was the good. The bad? 27-percent shooting from the field, five turnovers and three fouls, including a completely irrational technical foul. Outside of Aztec fans – especially ‘The Show’ student section that adores him for his brash attitude and antics on the floor – he has become one of the most hated players in the country. Respected basketball scribe Ken Pomeroy tweeted this, basically summing up the feelings of most college basketball fans that have seen Franklin play: “Is Jamaal Franklin as good as he is annoying? Or as annoying as he is good? I can’t decide.” –@kenpomeroy.
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Offensive rebounds, defense help Aztecs survive poor shooting

The No. 23 San Diego State Aztecs overcame another poor shooting performance on Saturday to defeat Missouri State on the road 60-44 in a game that tipped off at 11 a.m. San Diego time.

The Aztecs shot just 32.2 percent from the field, including 18.2 percent from behind the 3-point line. They also struggled from the free-throw line, making 18-of-26.

But the Aztecs’ ability to rebound and defend was the key to winning their first road game this season.

The Aztecs had 52 rebounds – 31 on defense and 21 on offense – as well as nine blocks and nine steals. Jamaal Franklin led the team defensively with three blocks, three steals and nine defensive rebounds. He had 12 total rebounds to go along with his game-high 22 points.

It wasn’t all good for Franklin, though. The 6-foot-5 junior committed seven turnovers, shot 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and committed both a technical and flagrant foul.

But the Aztecs live and die with the often-erratic Franklin because of his ability to create offense and get teams in foul trouble. He got to the line when the Aztecs’ offense was stagnant, hitting 9-of-11 free throws. And he twice drew open court fouls by stopping suddenly and letting a defender run over him from behind. The first time was early in the second half against Christian Kirk, sending the big forward to the bench for most of the half with four fouls.

The Aztecs held the Bears to 28.1 percent shooting from the field, including just 4-of-23 from 3-point range. They blocked nine shots and consistently altered other shots, rarely giving the Bears a clean look at the basket.

The Aztecs rebounded half of their missed shots, grabbing 21 offensive rebounds to match the 21 defensive rebounds pulled down by the Bears.

JJ O’Brien led the attack on the offensive glass, pulling down five. Freshman Skylar Spencer grabbed four offensive boards in just seven minutes of action, while Dwayne Polee and Franklin added three each. All eight players that saw the floor for the Aztecs pulled down at least one offensive rebound.

Xavier Thames and James Rahon were the other Aztecs to join Franklin in double digit scoring. Thames had 11 points, five assists, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal, and was also 5-for-5 from the free-throw line. Rahon had a quiet 10 points and four rebounds, but was the team’s best shooter as he went 2-of-5 on 3-pointers and 2-for-2 at the free-throw line.

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