Aztecs Shoot Past UC Irvine : Williams Leads Way as SDSU Makes 70% From the Field
It took Bryan Williams, San Diego State’s senior point guard, 3 years of waiting but he finally got his chance Friday night to show UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan what he let get away.
Williams, who started as a freshman at Irvine only to transfer early the next season, paid back his old team by scoring 19 points in helping the Aztecs to a 102-88 victory in front of 3,529 at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Williams had a perfect night shooting the ball, making his 7 shots from the field, including two 3-pointers, and connecting on his 3 free throws.
It was a good shooting night overall for the Aztecs--70.2% (40 of 57)--with five players in double figures. Senior center Mitch McMullen led all scorers with a career-high 29 points, missing only 1 of his 14 shots from the field, and had a game-high 11 rebounds.
It was the Aztecs’ third victory without a loss, their best start since the 1984-85 team won its first eight games on the way to a 23-8 record.
The Aztecs began that season with an 86-77 victory over the Anteaters, when Williams played for Irvine. But after starting 10 games that season, he quit the team after not playing in the first two games of the 1985-86 season. Three newly eligible transfers, including Scott Brooks, now with the Philadelphia 76ers, had moved ahead of him.
Williams transferred the next year to Cerritos College and after a season there was recruited by Coach Jim Brandenburg to play for the Aztecs.
“Bryan had a great game against us,” Mulligan said. “I have no animosity toward Bryan, but I still think Scott Brooks is a better guard.”
If there were any hard feelings, they did not show after the game as Williams gave Mulligan a pat on the back, and the coach responded by wrapping his arm around Williams, shaking his hand and giving him a big smile.
“He was the first person I saw when I came in the arena,” said Williams, who attended St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey. “The transfer was just something I had to do. It was what was best for me.”
Irvine, which lost for the third time in four games, was led by 21 points from junior Rod Palmer, a transfer from UCLA.
Much as they had done Tuesday in a 25-point victory at Baylor, the Aztecs got off to a fast start.
This time, SDSU scored the first 11 points and held Irvine without a point until junior forward Mike Labet made the first of 2 free-throw attempts with 16:23 left in the half.
It would be another minute before the Anteaters would score their first field goal on a layup by sophomore forward Jeff Herdman. But after Palmer made a 3-pointer at 14:55 to cut the lead to 11-6, the Aztecs pulled away with a 14-3 streak.
SDSU went on to lead by as much as 22 en route to a 45-27 halftime lead.
Williams was at his best in the first 20 minutes, scoring 13 points, making all 5 of his shots from the field, including 2 3-pointers. He also added 3 assists and 3 steals.
The Anteaters did make a run to open the second half, closing to within 51-45 in the first four minutes. But the Aztecs responded by scoring 11 of the next 12 points to take a 62-46 lead with 14:02 left.
Williams again was the spark, scoring consecutive baskets on a driving layup and on an alley-oop from senior forward Shawn Bell.
The pass from Bell was a play the Aztecs have worked successfully several times already this season despite the small stature of the 5-foot 11-inch Williams.
“Sometimes we catch teams sleeping,” Williams said, “and Shawn has been making great passes.”
Irvine made one last try, closing to within 79-73 with 6 minutes left. Then McMullen, who had come in seconds before after going to the bench 1:22 earlier with his fourth foul, scored consecutive layups and junior guard Tony Ross completed a 3-point play with 4:51 remaining for an 86-73 lead.
McMullen scored 19 of his points in the second half, making all 8 of his shots from the field.
The 102 points was the first time the Aztecs had gone over the century mark against an opponent other than U.S. International since they beat Morgan State, 128-68, in 1984-85.
Mitch McMullen had a previous high of 24 points last season against Texas El Paso and Wyoming. . . . The 19 points was the most for Bryan Williams since he scored a career-high 22 against U.S. Internationl last season. . . . San Diego State plays its next 2 games on the road at Texas Tech Monday and at Arizona State Dec. 17 before returning for a 7-game homestand starting with the first round of the McDonald’s tournament Dec. 20 against Hardin-Simmons. . . . A recheck by the SDSU sports information office shows that the Aztecs’ 83-58 victory at Baylor Tuesday was their largest margin of victory on the road since a 94-69 victory at San Fernando Valley State, now Cal State Northridge, in 1967-68.