The Aztecs left sunny San Diego for a real taste of winter in snowy, Anchorage, Alaska to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout. They warmed up Sullivan Arena with three victories in three days to capture the 2008 championship.
The Western Carolina Catamounts had the Aztecs on the ropes on Thursday night, but a solid defensive effort and excellent free throw shooting helped the Aztecs come out on top. The Catamounts turned out to be the surprise team in the tournament as they went on to win their next two games and finish in fifth place.
Kyle Spain continued to lead the Aztecs in scoring in the absence of Lorenzo Wade, who is still waiting for his day in court. Spain hit some late free throws to secure the win in the first game over Western Carolina. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Spain led all scorers with 15 points in just 21 minutes in the second game against Seattle University. He had a solid effort in an easy victory over Hampton in the finale. For his efforts, he was recognized as the MVP of the tournament.
The Aztec big men had a good tournament as well. Senior Ryan Amoroso played well at both ends of the court despite lingering back issues. He is also the only player to have won the tournament more than once. Amoroso was on the Marquette squad that was victorious in 2005. JUCO transfer Mehdi Cheriet is also starting to find his form. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes on Friday against Seattle University for his highest D-1 scoring effort to date. He also had three rebounds and one block on the defensive end.
And let’s not forget San Diego State’s quick guards, who took turns sharing the spotlight. Senior point guard Richie Williams had 15 points and four rebounds against Western Carolina. Against Seattle, Williams was limited to just four points, but distributed eight assists and gave up just one turnover. Sophomore guard D.J. Gay led all scorers with 20 points in the championship game, nailing six three-point shots. Gay was named Player of the Game against Hampton.
The Aztecs will take a detour next week to play at Northern Colorado on December 3. Then it’s back home to play USD in the annual cross-town rivalry game on December 6.