“It was definitely bittersweet, but more bitter because of the loss,” Johnson said. “It was kind of weird at first going up against all the guys I played with, but once I got on the court, I just wanted to beat them.”
Johnson scored a career-high 19 points and “played like an animal,” said Associate Head Coach Andy Newman.
“The bright spots were Jer’Vaughn and Jamel McGuire, two guys coming back ‘home’ to San Diego,” said Head Coach Bob Burton. “Usually, guys don’t play well in that situation. Jer’Vaughn was terrific.”
Sophomore point guard Jacques Streeter, who was still feeling sick, scored 12.
Junior guard Devon Peltier, who was 3 of 9 from three-point range, contributed 11 points.
SDSU freshman forward Kawhi Leonard single-handedly took over the game with career-highs in points (23) and rebounds (18).
“He didn’t feel pressured; he’s a really good player,” Newman said. “He’s really athletic and high motored.”
CSUF’s last home game was on Nov. 24 against New Mexico State when they came back to beat the Aggies after being down 25-3.
When talking about being on the road, Streeter said, it’s about knowing what to do to win and being more focused.
The Titans (3-3) have not shown the same poise they displayed when they beat UCLA in a double-overtime game back in mid-November on ESPN.
The problem with the Titans has been their slow starts, and against better competition, they have not been able to come back.
The Aztecs (7-2) stormed out to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back.
Senior guard Aaron Thompson responded with a three-pointer to put the Titans on the board.
A big blow to CSUF was when redshirt center Bryce Webster had to come out of the game with two early fouls.
With 12:36 remaining in the first half, Johnson showed some range with one of his two three-pointers to cut the Aztec lead to four.
But every time the Titans gained a little momentum, the Aztecs would answer.
Newman said that it was mainly because they lacked effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Leonard was getting into the lane at will with 11 points in the early going.
After Streeter’s three-pointer, the Aztecs went on a 9-0 run to expand their lead to 19 points until Streeter made a layup to stop the bleeding.
SDSU junior Brian Carlwell, a 6 foot 10 inch, 296-pound center was a force in the middle with six points and four rebounds before intermission.
CSUF shot 40 percent in the first half while allowing SDSU to shoot 55 percent. The Titans could never get into a rhythm, and the Aztecs led 41-25 at the half. “We were very ineffective on offense in the first half,” Burton said.
In the second half, it was a different story offensively.
Even though the Titans played with more energy by shooting 59 percent, they could not gain an edge.
Leonard continued his onslaught in the second half with his aggressive play off the dribble and on the boards.
“Our guys were not able to block out, and he was able to get those offensive rebounds,” Newman said.
The one advantage the Titans could have capitalized on was the 19 missed free throws from the Aztecs, who shot 10 percent better from the field than at the free throw line.
The outlining statistic for CSUF was getting out-muscled on the glass 38-24, giving up 17 offensive rebounds to the Aztecs.
“When you play a team like San Diego State, they are going to out rebound a lot of people,” Newman said
This is CSUF’s third straight loss of the season, after winning their first three games.
The Titans look to bounce back in their next game on Dec. 12 against Occidental College at Titan Gym.