Before departing his apartment for his final home basketball game with San Diego State, Anthony Watson made a brief stop Thursday night.
"The last thing I did was look at the school scoring record, which was 44 points by Kim Goetz (in the 1978-79 season against Utah at San Diego)," he said. "I just kept it in my mind. I thought this might be the type of game where I could get 44."
Watson went on to score a school-record 54 points as the Aztecs beat U.S. International University, 138-93, in front of 2,112 fans at the Sports Arena.
However, there was even more to Watson's effort. He also made a school-record 22 free throws, eclipsing by six the former mark Michael Cage set in the 1982-83 season against Florida State at San Diego.
When Watson left the game with 4:15 remaining, he received a standing ovation. Then, after sitting down, he acknowledged a curtain call from the crowd.
It is very unusual for laid-back Aztec fans to give such an ovation, but Watson's night became a part of school history.
"I wanted to show the people what I could do," Watson said. "It has been a great four years here for me. If I had it to do all over again, I'd pick San Diego State. I've matured a lot here."
Watson was among four seniors playing their final home game for SDSU. Steffond Johnson had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Creon Dorsey had 13 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. John Martens had 4 points and 7 rebounds.
The seniors were taken out individually in the final 5 1/2 minutes. Watson--and the biggest ovation--were saved for last.
Watson's most impressive looking play occurred when he stole the ball at midcourt and scored on a reverse dunk with 12:20 to play. He was given the ball almost every Aztec possession thereafter.
"When you have somebody doing what he was, you have to give him the ball," Dorsey said. "I'm just glad to have been a part of it."
USIU has been victim of more than a few Watson-type performances this season. The Gulls are the nation's worst defensive team and have allowed four teams to set school scoring records. SDSU was two points shy of tying its school record set against Chapman College 32 years ago.
Watson set SDSU's individual record on a six-foot jumper with 6:21 remaining.
"I think he's the best player we've played against," said Gary Zarecky, USIU coach. "We've never seen a player play as flawlessly as he did."
Meanwhile, the Gulls committed 27 turnovers and shot 36% from the field. Zarecky called it their worst effort of the year.
The game was decided in the first 2:47 when SDSU scored 14 unanswered points. Rade Milutinovic scored USIU's first points on a field goal after 3:12 had elapsed.
The Aztecs hit eight straight field-goal attempts before Watson missed. USIU missed five shots and had three turnovers on its first seven possessions.
Joe Yezbak, the nation's third leading scorer, led USIU with 30 points.
USIU is 7-18. SDSU is 9-16. Gaines savored the victory, although it was the 13th straight loss for USIU.
"They did a lot of talking," Gaines said, referring to Zarecky in plural form. "I'm well-respected around the country. In San Diego, I'm just trying to get some respect. Since we had to finish No. 2 in the city, we had to do it in grand style."
Said Zarecky: "If Smokey has something personal, that's his problem, not mine. If I have to start my career against San Diego State with a 45-point loss, I have one way to go--up."
Which is exactly where Watson was in his final SDSU home game.