Just when San Diego State needed him the most, guard Michael Best decided it was time to carry the load. And he wasn't talking about those extra pounds he's been hauling around the past few weeks.
Best scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Aztecs to a 63-49 victory over Chaminade in the seventh-place game of the Maui tournament Sunday at Lahaina Civic Center.
Best, who had a previous high of 24 points last season against New Mexico, broke out of his two-game shooting slump. He made 10 of 16 field goals, including five of eight three-pointers, after missing 13 of 20 shots in the first two games.
His performance could not have come at a better time for an Aztec team that had more than enough reasons to come out flat against the Silverswords (0-4).
The game, was SDSU's third in three days, was played at noon in a gymnasium cooled only by fans. It came after close losses to Villanova (66-58) and James Madison (56-53), both well-regarded teams. And it was contested in front of the kind of crowd one would expect to find inside watching two winless teams on a perfectly sunny day in Maui; no more than 100 were there for the start.
If those weren't enough reasons to worry, the Aztecs (1-2) were without junior reserve forward Michael Hudson, who was suspended for the game by Coach Jim Brandenburg moments before tipoff for what Brandenburg said were disciplinary reasons. Hudson apparently was not properly running drills in the pregame warmup and talked back to an assistant coach who tried to correct him, according to some who witnessed the incident.
"It is just something that needs to be taken care of this time of year," Brandenburg said. He said he expected Hudson would play in the home opener Thursday against UC Riverside "unless it escalates into something else."
This was not the best of tournaments for Hudson, a transfer from Pratt (Kan.) Community College. He missed six of his eight shots while playing 37 minutes in the first two games, made five turnovers and lost a chance to take a last-second, game-tying shot in the loss to James Madison Saturday when he went the wrong way on an inbounds play designed for him.
But Hudson never got a chance for redemption Sunday as he was banished to the team hotel.
Some punishment--three hours to himself in Maui. The alternative was to play the Silverswords (0-4), a National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division II school from Honolulu with an enrollment of 950.
This is not the program that made national headlines with its upset victories over Virginia and Louisville earlier in the decade.
The Aztecs trailed, 12-7, in the first seven minutes and needed to score the final four points of the first half to take a 30-28 lead at the break. Not until senior guard Rodney Jones made the second of two free throws with 17:56 to play did the Aztecs take the lead for good, at 33-32. SDSU then scored 10 of the next 12 points to break the game open at 43-34 with 12:31 left.
The Aztecs have been waiting for Best to show his form of a year ago since he underwent an operation in early October to remove two screws from his left knee. The screws had been implanted after Best, a 6-foot-4 senior from Seat Pleasant, Md., broke his leg before his senior year in high school.
Best did not practice for about a month after the surgery. During his inactivity his weight grew to 240 pounds, 25 more than he prefers. He has slimmed down to 225 pounds.
"If I lose about 10 more pounds," Best said, "a lot of teams are going to be in trouble."
MAUI TOURNAMENT Pairings All times PST Friday Villanova 66, San Diego State 58
North Carolina 80, James Madison 79
Louisville 89, Chaminade 70
Missouri 68, Evansville 53
James Madison 56, San Diego State 53
North Carolina 78, Villanova 68
Missouri 82, Louisville 79
Evansville 70, Chaminade 53
Sunday San Diego State 63, Chaminade 49
James Madison 70, Evansville 60
Louisville 83, Villanova 69
North Carolina vs. Missouri