Guards Watson and Konek Lead Aztecs to Win Over Lobos

Times Staff Writer

Call it the backcourt that wasn't to be.

If Creon Dorsey hadn't become San Diego State's starting point guard this season, the Aztecs probably would have used Anthony Watson as their floor leader/scorer and Jeff Konek as their primary outside shooter.

Well, last season's Aztec starting backcourt put on quite a show Saturday night in the SDSU's 99-80 Western Athletic Conference win over New Mexico at the Sports Arena.

The Aztecs (11-3, 21-5) will at least have a share of first place in the WAC with Texas El Paso. If UTEP loses its late game in Hawaii, San Diego State takes over sole possession of first. With the win, the Aztecs will finish no worse than second in the conference, which earned them a bye in the WAC Tournament and placed them in the semifinals.

Against the Lobos, Watson had 25 points, 9 assists and 8 steals in 39 minutes. It was the third straight 25-point game for Watson. Konek came off the bench to hit 7 of 10 shots for 14 points, and he added 4 assists.

"I still play with Jeff a lot in practice and we feel comfortable playing together," Watson said. "If I penetrate, I can drop it off to him."

And vice versa.

The play of Watson and Konek and strong performances from starting forward Michael Kennedy (17 points), reserve forward John Martens (10 points in 12 minutes) and center Gerald Murray (six points and four rebounds) gave the Aztecs their second big win in 48 hours. They defeated UTEP, 76-63, on Thursday night.

And as has become their custom, the Aztecs struggled for much of the first half, and then poured it on in the final 20 minutes.

Going against a New Mexico team that defeated them, 94-85, on Jan. 18 at The Pit in Albuquerque, the Aztecs quickly fell behind, 18-8, after almost eight minutes of play.

That's when Konek replaced Dorsey, who is playing with a sore right leg. Dorsey was not moving the club offensively, and was beaten continually by Kevin Scarborough, who had a game-high 27 points.

Moments later, the Aztecs switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.

Considering that the Lobos, a poor outside shooting team, shot 65% from the floor against the Aztecs' man-to-man in the first meeting, it was surprising that San Diego State didn't start out in a zone.

But Aztec Coach Smokey Gaines explained that his teams always start in a man-to-man that he hopes will wear down the opposition.

But on Saturday night, it was the zone that wore down the Lobos.

Trailing 20-16, the Aztecs suddenly started moving and the crowd of 6,642 fans started getting in the game.

Over the final 4:21 of the half, the Aztecs had a streak of eight unanswered points and outscored the Lobos, 14-3 to take a 42-35 halftime lead.

SDSU shot 63% from the floor (20 of 32) in the opening half and New Mexico hit 56% (14 of 25).

In the second half, the Aztecs' aggressive 2-3 zone and their running offense enabled them to extend their lead to 63-54 at the 10-minute mark and 79-64 with five minutes to play.

Watson scored 13 of his points on his deadly jumper that has apparently returned, and he fed an assortment of "Who are these guys" frontline players on numerous fast break opportunities.

"We're more effective when we run," Watson said. "When we play that slow down game, the defense can concentrate on me more."

The Aztecs' running attack resulted in 30 second-half free throw attempts, and they hit 25 of them.

Once again, the Aztec depth proved to be a key ingredient.

Murray, playing in place of center Leonard Allen who picked up his third foul midway through the first half, Martens and Ross (five points and eight rebounds) formed the rest of the Aztec starting lineup throughout much of the second half.

"They've really got that team concept working," Lobo Coach Gary Colson said. "They don't seem to care who scores, and Smokey is doing his best coaching job."

No argument from the screaming fans who gave Watson and Konek loud standing ovations when they were taken out late in the game.

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