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SDSU Makes a Mess Against Texas, 85-58

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is a warning of sorts. It is on T-shirts at the airport and on shot glasses in gift shops. It pops up on mugs around town.

Don’t Mess with Texas.

San Diego State’s basketball team didn’t listen.

The Aztecs Messed with Texas; Texas Toyed with the Aztecs.

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The final score in the championship game of the Longhorn Classic was 85-58, Texas, but the teams played the entire 40 minutes only for formality’s sake. This one was finished before many of the 12,043 in attendance had a chance to take off their jackets.

And things only get worse for SDSU (1-4). Starting forward Courtie Miller, who has been nursing a sore right knee for the past month, said after the game that he plans to meet with his mother, SDSU trainer Mark Haines and team doctor Peter Wile today or Monday and discuss having surgery.

Miller, who began the tournament as SDSU’s leading scorer at 15 points a game, likely has a partial tear in the lateral meniscus in his right knee, Haines said. If Miller opts for surgery, it would be arthroscopic and he would probably be out about three weeks.

“I’m not able to move laterally,” said Miller, who scored only six points in 15 minutes. “If I’m not able to move laterally, I’m going to have problems playing. I’m not looking for excuses, I’m just physically having trouble doing the things I need to compete with Division I athletes.”

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So did several of his teammates Saturday night.

You play with fire, you get burned. The Aztecs marched into the burnt orange--seats, clothes, signs and the basketball court trim--of the Erwin Center and got scorched.

These Texans get possessive. After the national anthem here, everyone remains standing while the school band plays “The Eyes of Texas.” And after each Longhorn victory, they play an encore of “The Eyes of Texas” and everyone stands again.

They stand often in Austin.

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They also run. Since Coach Tom Penders’ arrival three years ago, the basketball team--now referred to as the Runnin’ Horns--has scored at least 100 points at home 17 times. They probably would have made it 18 Saturday, but their second team was in before 10 minutes were gone in the second half.

The Longhorns (4-2) have won seven of eight Longhorn Classics and are 15-1 in their tournament. They have won 16 consecutive home games.

And they didn’t waste any time in taking control against SDSU. As Texas went on a 13-1 first-half run, there wasn’t a thing SDSU could do about it. The Aztecs were completely, totally overwhelmed. At halftime, Texas--ahead 54-27--had more steals than SDSU had baskets, 12-10. SDSU finished with 24 turnovers.

“They came out harder than we did,” said Joe McNaull, who finished with a career-high 24 points and was named to the all-tournament team. “They wanted it more. We came out wanting to win; they came out and did the things they needed to to win.”

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This is how 12 consecutive SDSU possessions ended during the 13-1 run: Steal. Steal. Steal. Pass off McNaull’s hands and out of bounds. Keith Balzer air ball. Steal. Miller misses two free throws. Steal. Ray Barefield fumbles a pass and it goes out of bounds. Miller misses one of two free throws. Steal. Steal. Time out, Aztecs. Texas, 25-8, with 9:23 left.

“Eight points with (nine) minutes left,” McNaull said. “That’s terrible.”

The Aztecs went 6:44 without a field goal. During this time, they got one point--Miller’s free throw. For the game, SDSU shot 34% (20 of 59).

“San Diego State didn’t have a three-point shooter, so we could double down and play aggressive defense,” Penders said. “All we cared about for tonight’s game was defense.”

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And Texas was without 6-foot-7 senior Dexter Cambridge, who has been the Longhorns’ best best player. Cambridge, who is averaging 23 1/2 points and 12 rebounds a game, missed both games of the tournament after a judge Friday lifted a temporary restraining order that was allowing him to play.

Cambridge, a native of the Bahamas and a transfer from Lon Morris Community College, was ruled ineligible by Texas--which was following NCAA guidelines--on Nov. 20 when it was discovered he accepted a check for $7,000 from a friend in Jacksonville, Tex. after graduating from Morris.

But Texas’ starting guards--Terrence Rencher, a freshman who was New York’s Mr. Basketball last year, and B.J. Tyler, a sophomore transfer from DePaul--combined for 20 points and 12 assists. And forward Benford Williams, the tournament’s most valuable player, had 24 points and seven rebounds.

Aztec Notes

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Texas Southern defeated North Texas in the third-place game, 81-76. . . . In addition to Joe McNaull, the all-tournament team: Texas’ B.J. Tyler and Terrence Rencher, Texas Southern’s David Arceneaux and North Texas’ Jesse Ratliff. Texas’ Benford Williams was the most valuable player. . . . Several SDSU players and a few members of the coaching staff visited a children’s hospital in Austin Saturday afternoon. . . . SDSU guard Virgil Smith regained his starting spot in the lineup and Ray Barefield, whosprained an ankle Friday, was well enough to start at the other guard. Terrence Hamilton, though, again did not suit up. He is nursing a broken toe.


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