FINALLY!AFTER 28 frustrating years, AZTECS ARE CONFERENCE CHAMPS
 
 
By Willie Bans The Daily Aztec

San Diego, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- It looks like the start of the Boston Marathon, with people jockeying for position at the blast of the gun. It smells like a locker room, the scent of sweat so piercing you can't escape it. It feels like a rock concert, a mosh without a pit - hot, humid. It sounds like a political convention, as thousands of people scream at the same time.

That's what the first regular-season conference championship for the San Diego State men's basketball team in almost 30 years is like.

That's what Cox Arena was like last night.

SDSU beat Wyoming, 91-72, in front of a sellout crowd of 12,444 - the largest conference home crowd in program history. And in doing, the Aztecs (20-8 overall, 13-3 in Mountain West Conference play) clinched their first regular-season title since 1978.

It was, perhaps, the biggest victory in almost 30 years.

Maybe the biggest win in program history.

"This is what you dream about - winning championships," said senior team captain Trimaine Davis, who spoke as he wore the just-cut-down net around his neck. "To be honest, when I first got here, it was more fantasy than it was reality. I'm just glad I stuck with it and believed in (head coach Steve Fisher) and the vision he set forth.

"Now that we got the players to do it, it just made it a reality."

In a game with such historical perspective - one that Davis and fellow senior John Sharper waited their entire college careers for - a player who had never suited up in red and black before December made the biggest impact.

Junior forward Mohamed Abukar - who transferred from Florida in December 2004 - came through at all the right times in the convincing win. His 26 points led the Aztecs - a feat made more impressive since he was guarded by Wyoming center Justin Williams, the MWC's leading blocker and defensive stalwart, most of the night.
 

 

"I just knew that I had to step up," Abukar said. "(But) we were able to make plays because of our defense. That's the main reason why we able to make those runs tonight. We guarded so hard that we were able to struggle offensively a little bit and still be able to get the points when we needed."

And in a game the Aztecs needed to win, they were able to make a point - to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

Picked to win the MWC before the season, SDSU strengthened its case for an NCAA Tournament bid with last night's blowout.

"We did everything a coach could want," said Fisher, who won his first career regular season conference championship. "We created turnovers for scoring opportunities (and Wyoming) had one offensive rebound. In out first half, we were sensational."

Sensational may be an understatement.

Behind the play of Abukar and junior forward Marcus Slaughter, the Aztecs led by 22 points at halftime -their largest halftime lead of the season. Slaughter and Abukar each had 13 points by the break, while junior guard Brandon Heath tallied four steals and eight points.

Heath's on-ball defense forced Wyoming to play sloppy. So sloppy, that it committed 13 turnovers in the first half - 20 for the game. Sometimes, the Cowboys simply couldn't set up an offense because they were unable to make more than two passes without getting the ball stolen.

Unlike the overtime game on Jan. 28 at Wyoming, which was won by SDSU on Davis' game-winning free throw with less than a second remaining, last night's contest was never close - SDSU probably never looked better the entire season.

The Aztecs - who host South Dakota State on Saturday in their regular season finale - have taken one big step toward the postseason.

Although the victory gives SDSU an automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament, the Aztecs - who will enter the MWC Tournament as the top seed - made it clear that their road continues.

"We've got two more championships to win," Abukar said, referring to the MWC and NCAA Tournaments. "I cut down one net and I've got two more to cut down."

(C) 2006 The Daily Aztec via CSTV U-WIRE


 
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