San Diego State blew out their inner-city opponent UC San Diego 80-56 in the Aztecs last exhibition game before they face off with Syracuse on Friday.
"I thought we were better today than we were in exhibition number one, which is important," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. "We are a team that will truly share and move the ball and I think that will win (games) for us. The thing that we must get better on is defensive rebounding. We have to rebound that ball and if we don't do that on Friday were are in big trouble."
The rebound margin for SDSU was a measly +2 against an undersized UCSD team, also gave up 13 offensive rebounds.
That's a recipe for disaster against the Orangemen.
One of the largest turnarounds between the two exhibition games for the Aztecs was turnovers. SDSU only coughed it up nine times.
"Yeah, we definitely picked it up in that sense. Coach talks about being smart-aggressive," J.J. O'Brien said. "In the first game, we were overly aggressive and we weren't being smart with it. In this game, we were definitely smarter as well as still being aggressive. The goal is to keep it under ten and we did that so we definitely improved in that area."
"Coach Fisher and the rest of the coaches always talk about `taking care of the ball is the number one key on the board,'" Chase Tapley explained. "Tonight that's what we wanted to do is keep taking care of the ball and just having the most possessions that we can. And by that, we can't turn the ball over and we did that well today."
Despite two "dress rehearsals" Fisher doesn't think he has learned anything about his team that he doesn't already know.
"We have depth, versatility with how we can play," Fisher said. "We have to get better with our defense, taking care of the ball and rebounding the ball."
One thing that has become apparent after two games is the starting rotation as Xavier Thames, Chase Tapley, Jamaal Franklin, J.J. O'Brien and Deshawn Stephens started in both exhibition games.
"I think we are pretty close on in a lot of spots," Fisher said. "Even though that was our exhibition line-up, I'm sure before we start conference that we will have a variety of different line ups than from what we have seen tonight."
So the question remains, are the Aztecs ready for Syracuse?
"We still have a few days of preparing," O'Brien said. "We've come a long way even just from the first game we played, but we're going to be ready. We practice hard when we scout and we'll be ready to play against them."
Just the beginning
Sophomore J.J. O'Brien showed Monday night why SDSU coaches and players have been raving all offseason about the transfer from Utah.
"He is smart, knows how to play and you can't put a premium on that," Fisher said of O'Brien. "He has so much value added that does not show up on the score board."
He demonstrated it on the stat sheet against UCSD with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting, 6 rebounds, an assist and 5 steals.
O'Brien was seen grabbing boards, pushing the break, playing inside and out; you name, he was doing it.
"That's been my whole life pretty much just being versatile, trying to do everything on the floor," O'Brien explained. "With this team we have a lot of shooters, a lot of people that can put the ball in basket."
"So if I'm not getting all the shot attempts or anything, I just like to go and try to clean up anything that's missed and any other way I can help I'm going to do that. That's what I have done my whole life, so anyway I can help in the one, two, three, four or five; I'm going to do it for the team."
Aztec fans will fall in love with O'Brien sooner rather than later.
-SDSU shot 49.2% from the field after shooting 49.0% against Cal State San Marcos.
-San Diego State held a 23-5 advantage in points off turnovers and outscored UCSD, 40-22, in the paint.
-UCSD head coach Chris Carlson on the SDSU atmosphere:
"I've been coming here a long time. I've been here the last few years and have seen this thing grow and what the student crowd has been able to do. It's fantastic. It's great for basketball in this community. I'm always eager to come over here and see what's next from ‘The Show' and from this program as a whole."
-All 15 Aztec players who suited logged minutes and 11 of the 15 scored at least two points.
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