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Story and photos by Liz Alper

December 12, 2016 (San Diego) - Following their 74-63 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night, SDSU men’s hoops tried their luck against another ASU, Alabama State, tonight.

Though some might make the point that the Hornets, who were 1-7 before tonight, were an easy team for the Aztecs to beat, SDSU nonetheless got off to a much hotter start than their past few games, with big men--sophomore guard Zylan Cheatham and junior forward Malik Pope--getting the first four points.  Maybe it was those 80s neon shoes he was wearing, but Pope was a thorn in the Hornets’ side for the first five minutes of the first half, netting the first six points., catapulting the Aztecs to a 12-2 lead with 15 minutes left.  Back-to-back threes propelled the Aztecs to a 20-point, 42-22 lead at the half.  Cheatham and Pope led SDSU with nine points each in the first 20 minutes.  SDSU had only five team fouls compared to Alabama State’s 11 in the first half.

Neither team was able to score much in the second half, but Pope and Cheatham still led the way with 13 (Pope) and 11 (Cheatham) points.  Both teams played a calm second half, but the Aztecs were still able to reach the 30-point threshold and get a big, much-needed 73-41 win to end their three-game losing streak without sophomore guard Jeremy Hemsley in tonight's lineup.

“Feels a lot better after you find a way to get a victory,” head coach Steve Fisher said in his post-game presser. “Doesn’t matter who you play, it feels good to win.  I thought we did a good job of pushing the ball, finding the open man and getting good shots and that’s what we need to be able to do.  I liked the togetherness and the energy they brought and that’s a step forward and that’s what we need.

"We should be a good defensive team," Fisher said when asked what the team needed to work on. "we just need to believe that we're going to be and then we have to do it.  We gotta say that ball is like gold, you can't give it away.  And then we gotta rebound better.  You can't give them those second chance opportunities.  And then we gotta guard better."

"I think it was a step in the right direction, to say the least," Cheatham said. "we executed, we made the right plays and we played for each other."

With this win, the Aztecs move to 5-4, while the Hornets fall to 1-8.

The Aztecs will spend Christmas in Hawaii for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on December 22, 23 and Christmas Day.  They’ll start with a 4:00 p.m. game on the 22nd against Southern Miss, which can be viewed on ESPN2.  The scarlet and black will face Tulsa or Stephen F. Austin on the 23rd at a time to be announced.  That game will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPN3.  The Christmas Day opponent and time are still to be announced, but that game will be shown on the ESPN networks.

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