Aztecs take aim at Cougars in Maui Invitational

Maui, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - Former conference foes close out the first round of the Maui Invitational, as the San Diego State Aztecs take on the BYU Cougars at the Lahaina Civic Center on Monday evening.

 

The winner of this game will move on to fast either host Chaminade or Pittsburgh in championship round action on Tuesday.

 

Steve Fisher's Aztecs are making their first appearance in this event since 2003 and have opened a highly-anticipated 2014-15 season with three straight wins, topping Cal State Northridge (79-58), Utah (53-49) and most recently, Cal State-Bakersfield (51-27).

 

Dave Rose's Cougars have matched SDSU's strong start, going 3-0 thus far. All three games have come at the Marriott Center with wins over Long Beach State (95-90), Arkansas-Little Rock (91-62) and Southern Virginia (101-48).

 

These two teams were conference foes in the Mountain West. BYU holds a 48-23 advantage in the all-time series, but it was San Diego State winning the last matchup, a 72-54 decision in the 2011 MWC Tournament's title game.

BYU has a penchant for scoring in bunches, as evidenced by the team's 101- point eruption against Southern Virginia last time out. Seven Cougars notched double digits in the win, as Rose was able to clear his bench and get everyone involved in the game. Jake Toolson led the way with 15 points. Star guard Tyler Haws played just 17 minutes but netted 13 points. Isaac Neilson also finished with 13 points, followed by Luke Worthington (12 pts), Chase Fisher (10 pts), Anson Winder (10 pts) and Dalton Nixon (10 pts). BYU shot .544 from the floor in the rout, while holding an out-manned Southern Virginia squad to a mere .290 shooting performance.

Offense isn't a problem for the Cougars, as the team is netting 95.7 ppg through three games, on a healthy .534 shooting. Haws is one of the nation's premier scorers, although he is averaging a modest 17.3 ppg (for him), due to only playing about 27 minutes per game. Fischer and Winder have been reliable scoring options as well for BYU at 15.3 and 10.3 ppg, respectively.

 

While BYU is getting it done with flashy offense, the Aztecs are undefeated thanks to some of the nation's best defense this season. San Diego State comes into this tournament allowing a mere 44.7 ppg, holding foes to .317 shooting, including an anemic .176 from behind the arc (9-of-51). In addition, SDSU is forcing just over 19 turnovers per game. Offensively, no one is filling up the basket at a high rate, as Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O'Brien pace the team with 10.3 and 10.0 ppg, respectively.

 

The Aztecs put on a defensive clinic against CS-Bakersfield last week. Despite scoring just 51 points, SDSU rolled to a 24-point victory, holding the Roadrunners to an ugly 27 points, on 21.4 percent shooting. CS-Bakersfield only hit one of its 20 3-point attempts in the game and turned the ball over 23 times. Polee was the only Aztec to post double digits in the win, finishing with 13 points. SDSU won the game despite shooting just .246 from the field and putting up a 3-of-24 effort from behind the arc.

 

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