The San Diego State men’s basketball team didn’t get to go to the NCAA Tournament. So San Diego figured it would bring the excitement of the NCAA Tournament to them.
An impressive sellout crowd at Viejas Arena provided all the energy you’d expect from March Madness and the Aztecs fed off it in a 93-78 win over Washington in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
SDSU used an 18-5 run at the end of the first half to build a 45-29 lead on the Huskies. Aztecs forward Matt Shrigley hit all three of his field goals in the first half, all of them from 3-point range. The junior forward from La Costa Canyon High finished with 12 points.
The Aztecs were led by senior Winston Shepard, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his 6th double-double of the season. During his SDSU career the Aztecs at 9-0 in games where he has a double-double.
Of course, as has been the case for most of the season, it was not going to be easy. SDSU’s lead slipped to as little as five points in the second half but a late scoring surge from St. Augustine High alum Trey Kell helped hold off the Huskies. Kell scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
Credit must be given to the 12,414 who showed up to watch the game in-person. Watch highlights from most other NIT games and you’ll see half-empty, mostly antiseptic crowds bemoaning the fact their team did not make the more illustrious tournament where a national champion is crowned.
"When I walked out right before the game I could feel the energy in the building," said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher. "We salute the fans."
The Aztecs rewarded those fans with their highest scoring output of the season.
"We're just so excited to be out there," said Shepard. "We're excited to still be playing. We've got some goals we're trying to achieve. Today was another step for us."
We can probably expect another sellout on Wednesday night when the Aztecs Georgia Tech at 6:00. Winner of that game gets to go to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the NIT Final Four.
The ticketing process will be a little interesting. Season ticket holders have the right of first refusal and can purchase the same seats at www.goaztecs.com. Tickets not picked up by 5:00 p.m. will be released to the general public, also at www.goaztecs.com. If you don’t trust technology and want to get tickets while speaking to a real human you can, starting at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning at two locations: the Viejas Arena box office or the Aztec Ticket Office (Window E at Qualcomm Stadium).
The best deal is being offered to current San Diego State students, who can get two complimentary tickets to the game at the Viejas Arena box office starting at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday (with a valid RedID). An anonymous donor made that possible.