Aztecs Remain Calm in Face of UCLA Storm : College basketball: San Diego State brings a depleted lineup into tonight’s game against the third-ranked Bruins.
Talk about diminishing returns. Three weeks into the season, the San Diego State men’s basketball team already has lost four games and two players.
And that’s not all of the story as the Aztecs (1-4) prepare to play host to third-ranked UCLA (3-0) at 7:30 tonight in the San Diego Sports Arena.
The Bruins will be without second-leading scorer Don MacLean, who has the flu. But as for the Aztecs: Who says there are no blizzards in Southern California? SDSU’s losses have been piling up like snow in the east.
Roll call, anyone?
* The Aztecs’ two tallest players, brothers Mark (6-feet-11) and Neal (7-0) Pollard said sayonara to the team last week after becoming frustrated with a lack of playing time and with the way the team has been run.
* Courtie Miller, SDSU’s second-leading scorer (12 points a game), will not play tonight because of what Aztec medical officials believe is a partial tear of the lateral meniscus in his right knee. A decision on whether Miller will undergo surgery is expected by Monday.
* Tony Clark, SDSU’s great hope who is being spoken of like some kind of Holy Grail by those around Peterson Gym, will not become eligible until next week. Clark, a transfer from Arizona, has to wait until his final grades are posted for the semester.
That is the major outline. Otherwise, Aztec forward Keith Balzer’s knees are still sore, swingman Terrence Hamilton has missed three games with a broken toe but is expected back tonight and guard Ray Barefield is still recovering from a sprained ankle.
And here comes UCLA, which dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll this week after beating Pepperdine by 40.
“We’re fine,” SDSU Coach Jim Brandenburg said. “This basketball team has set its jaw. We’re going to focus in and be the best possible basketball team we can be.”
And there will be a recruiter at the door of the Sports Arena tonight, checking the eligibility of anyone who looks like they may be able to play a little . . .
Of course, the Aztecs are still looking forward to the game.
“It’s a loooonnng way from the juco schedule,” said junior point guard Virgil Smith, who transferred from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York this year. “Two years ago, I’m sitting at home watching these guys run up and down the floor and daydreaming. Now, I get a chance. That’s the best part of the whole thing. It’s almost like a dream come true.
“Every Saturday, kids everywhere turn on the tube and watch Syracuse, Duke, Indiana. . . . How many times do you actually get a chance to step on the floor with these guys?”
Asked if it would be intimidating, Smith bristled.
“No,” he said. “I said I watched them, I didn’t say I was scared of them.”
There are other reasons the Aztecs are looking forward to the game. Freshman guard John Molle was a teammate of UCLA guard Shon Tarver’s on a summer-league all-star team in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. Steve Harris, an SDSU volunteer assistant coach, spent the past four years as UCLA’s head student manager while preparing to embark upon a coaching career.
And then there is Jim Harrick Jr., the SDSU assistant coach who is the son of UCLA Coach Jim Harrick. Harrick Jr. said he lost a summer tennis series to his father, 9-8, so he owes him something .
“They’re riding a three-game winning streak and haven’t played on the road yet,” Harrick Jr. said. “They’re probably not thinking too highly of San Diego State. They’re probably thinking, ‘This is a cupcake game for us.’ If they come in here thinking they’re going to win by 40, they’ve got another think coming.”
Unlike at Friday night’s Rod Stewart concert at the Sports Arena, good seats are still available for SDSU-UCLA. The Aztecs are expecting a crowd of between 6,000 and 7,000.
SDSU Coach Jim Brandenburg on UCLA dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 in the polls: “It’s a travesty. . . . They annihilated a good Indiana team (87-72) earlier on a neutral court.” . . . SDSU has not played host to UCLA since 1940-41, when the Aztecs did so twice and won each time, 33-28 and 34-31. Those are SDSU’s last victories against UCLA. The Bruins lead the series, 15-5. . . . UCLA, though, has played in San Diego since 1940-41. The Bruins won their last NCAA championship in the Sports Arena, in Coach John Wooden’s last year in 1975.