SAN DIEGO — Before every game, San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher presents his team with a bullet point list of things to particularly focus on during the 40 minutes of action.
No. 1 is always turnovers, Fisher said, both limiting their own and forcing them on defense.
For Wednesday night’s NIT quarterfinal against Georgia Tech, No. 2 was preventing Tech from dominating on the offensive glass like it had all year.
The message clearly hit home for the Aztecs, who out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets 12-7 on offense and outscored them 17-5 in second-chance opportunities.
“Every shot, they were boxing out and going after the shot,” Marcus Georges-Hunt said. “They were just swarming all over the place.”
Tech rebounded 40 percent of its misses this season and ranked 24th nationally with a little more than 13 offensive rebounds a game game.
It rebounded 25 percent of its misses against the Aztecs.
The Jackets saw some fans come out to San Diego, including five especially rowdy shirtless guys whose yellow-painted chests read “TECH!”, but almost all of the 12,414 sold-out crowd at Viejas Arena screamed their red-and-black-clad faces off for their Aztecs.
It was SDSU’s second straight sellout and 73rd of its last 74 games (the only non-sellout was SDSU’s opening round NIT win against Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne).
“I was just telling my family this was one of the toughest places I’ve played,” Adam Smith said. “It was loud, the crowd really gets into it, and you can tell the team really feeds off of that. Besides UNC this year, this is probably one of the loudest places that we’ve played in.”
Smith finally has off night
Over his last five games, Smith averaged 20.6 points on 52 percent shooting and 55 percent from long range. He led the Jackets with 20 and 21 points against Houston and South Carolina on a combined 14-of-26 mark from the field. It’s no wonder, then, Fisher assigned his best on-ball defender, Dakarai Allen, to guard the hot hand.
Allen earned a spot in the starting lineup late in the season with his steal-happy hands and freakish length for a 6-foot-5 guard. He routinely held opponents’ top scorers below their season averages, most recently keeping Washington’s Andrew Andrews — who averaged 21 points per game — to 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting in the NIT second round.
Against Allen and the Aztecs, Smith scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting — 0-of-4 from 3-point land.
“Credit goes to him, he’s a great defender. He’s long, athletic,” Smith said. “Most of the shots that I took, even a few that I made, he was there contesting. But it was a team effort on their part. Once we got past one guy, there was another there. They rotated well.”
Georges-Hunt says goodbye
This game marked Georges-Hunt’s 130th as a Jacket, tying him with Malcolm Mackey, Marvin Lewis and Anthony McHenry for the program record.
It was also his last game as a Jacket. He averaged 16.7 points this year and shot 45.5 percent, his best career clip. He increased his scoring each year with the program (10.8 per game as a freshman, 11.7 as a sophomore, 13.6 as a junior and 16.7 this year).
“It’s been a long career here,” he said with ice around his knee after the game. “A lot of ups and downs, but it’s made me stronger as a person and as a player. I embraced it. Every day wasn’t easy and it was really challenging. … I didn’t get the result, get to Madison Square (Garden), but looking back at it, I’ve had a pretty great career. I’m just thankful for them allowing me to wear that jersey. It’s been an honor.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.