The contractual buyout for the home-and-home series to avoid coming to one of the nation’s loudest, craziest, wackiest college basketball venues was $150,000.
San Diego State opted to play.
It paid for not paying.
The 79-73 loss Tuesday night at Grand Canyon University will most certainly knock the No. 25 Aztecs from the Associated Press rankings, but the real damage may be in perception. You lost to a WAC team that’s been Division I for only a decade and was 0-9 against ranked opponents?
Coach Brian Dutcher said he wanted to challenge himself with the nonconference schedule, and this might have been the biggest – or perhaps, most ill-advised. The rest of the country knows it’s almost impossible to win at BYU and Gonzaga, where the Aztecs also play this season; it doesn’t yet understand GCU Arena and the 3,500-strong Havocs student section, and their hunger for national relevance.
Maybe it will now, thanks to an ESPNU telecast that showed a talented team and its maniacal fan base taking it to a program that played for the national championship earlier this year.
“When we recruited a lot of these guys, we talked about this game,” Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew said. “We talked about things we wanted to accomplish this year, and this was definitely one of those things. Having a chance to have a ranked team in your building is special.
“The only way you get respect is by earning it. Our guys are aware of that.”
The Aztecs (7-2) trailed by 13 points inside five minutes to go after being down 14 at UC San Diego four nights earlier – another nonconference road game in a raucous atmosphere that, unlike conference, no one forced them to schedule. This time, there was no comeback, no buzzer-beater for a dramatic victory, no escape.
The penalty: a drop of 12 spots in the Kenpom from No. 19 before UCSD to 31 now, the equivalent of three seed lines in the NCAA Tournament and headed toward bubble territory.
“It’s loud, it’s energetic,” Dutcher said of the relentless wall of noise that was already in full voice 45 minutes before tip-off and stormed the court at the final buzzer. “They give their team energy. I think if we play this at Viejas and it’s a close game, maybe we come out on the other end.
“There’s a reason home teams are hard to beat in college basketball. And this is a team that’s been to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. This is a good team on their home floor, and we played well but not well enough to win.”
The Aztecs overcame a seven-point halftime deficit – and a 2-3 zone – to briefly take the lead, but the team that ranked second nationally in defensive efficiency last season couldn’t stop the Antelopes at the other end, allowing them to score on six straight possessions and 13 of 17. As proficient as the Aztecs were at times on…
Read More: Grand Canyon wreaks havoc with No. 25 San Diego State in 79-73 win 2023-12-06 04:34:00