San Diego State coaches knew. The players knew. The NBA scouts who attended the training knew it.
Now everyone knows.
Keshad Johnson could be a special player in the state of San Diego.
The number 0, 6-foot-7 striker, who wears the number 0 – similar to the letter “O” for his hometown of Oakland – broke out for 13 points in less than two minutes in the second half of Friday than the Aztecs a previously close game against them blew up UC Irvine for an easy 77-58 win at the Viejas Arena.
Remember, Johnson’s previous career high was seven and he only managed 34 total points in 18 games last season.
However, the potential magically turned into performance when the opportunity was whistled for three consecutive fouls at 17:05 after the start of striker Aguek Arop. Between 3:59 p.m. and 2:06 p.m. Johnson had three 3s, a lob dunk and two free throws after another dunk attempt.
He finished the team on 14 points, four rebounds and a steal in just 17 minutes against Big West preseason favorites, underscoring why coach Brian Dutcher keeps saying this could be the deepest team in his two decades at SDSU.
There are five starters, all juniors or seniors. There is a four year junior and two fifth year seniors from the bank.
Now you have to worry about having a second child who averaged 1.9 points as a newbie?
“Last year was a learning curve,” said Dutcher. “He was more concerned about where he had to be all the time, trying to please the coaches, and now he’s playing more freely. He knows where to be, knows what to do, and he’s opened up his offensive game a bit because he’s comfortable.
“Credit to Keshad and the work he has done.”
It’s also an honor for the assistant coaches who pulled him aside at halftime after missing all three shots and one of two free throws.
“They basically gave me the lift-up talk to relax and play your game,” said Johnson. “When that happened, she gave me the keys to the till. It gives me a lot of confidence when you see the ball run through the hoop a few times when you see yourself contributing. “
Johnson was 4 of 18 behind the arch last season. He was 3 out of 4 in the second half Friday.
“We all knew,” said senior point guard Trey Pulliam. “Last year he couldn’t get the minutes he wanted because we had a great team. But what Keshad does, we all knew he could do it. I mean, we see it in practice every day. “
The rest of the boxing score looked similar to Wednesday’s 73:58 win over UCLA # 22, with the numbers spread across the squad. Eleven players scored just two in double digits (Johnson and Matt Mitchell 11). Nine made 3-pointers. Seven had at least two rebounds, nine had an assist, and nine had a steal. Ten played double-digit minutes, but no one played more than 25.
Four minutes before the end, SDSU (2-0) had all three newbies on the floor together and Keith Dindwiddie emptied a pair of 3s. With 1:18 to go, Cade Alger and Jared Barrett joined them.
The mood was far less dramatic than the first game of the day in Viejas, when UCLA beat Pepperdine 107-98 in triple overtime.
The Aztecs shot just 40.3 percent, missing 8 of 22 from the line, beating 38-31. That is, they didn’t win when they were 30. They compensated for this by forcing 25 turnovers – 14 in the first half – which they converted to 26 points.
“The difference in the game,” said UC Irvine coach Russell Turner. “Everyone knows if you flip it 25 times you won’t get much success.”
Dutcher, whose team has turned 40 in two games, said, “If you’re looking for a topic in the first two games, we are deep and can take full space because we have numbers off the bench … you go four, five , six minutes and go to the bench and we bring in fresh bodies. That is a cumulative effect. “
The game followed a similar pattern two days earlier as the two teams’ openings.
The Aztecs abandoned baskets for the first two defenses and allowed their opponent a hot start before tightening the screws. And for 15 minutes, the anteaters looked like the team that won 30 games and upset Kansas State at the 2019 NCAA tournament.
On Wednesday, they led Pepperdine by eight in the middle of the first half … and down by 23 in the second half. Against SDSU they were still ahead after 15 minutes … and eight minutes from time they were down 28.
Pulliam lit the 11-0 run to end the first half with a 3-step backward step, followed by a bench shot in traffic. Mitchell dropped a 3 and suddenly the Aztecs looked like the team that finished last season 30-2 and 6th in both big polls.
It wasn’t enough to list them this season. They only appeared on three of the approximately 60 Associated Press ballots. That could change on Monday when the next one is released and voters win 34 points against preseason favorites in the Pac-12 and Big West.
“I always think we belong there,” said Dutcher. “We have a good program. I think we should always have some kind of national respect. But we are used to not being there and having to play our part. That is why we have the program that we have. We have a chip on our shoulder and we know that nobody ever gives us anything.
“We work for everything we have. We are working again this year. “
SDSU is planning two games
The Aztecs announced that they will play two local NAIA schools to replace the two conference games scheduled for December 3rd and 5th against the state of Colorado, which were postponed when the CSU paused its program for 14 days. Saint Katherine of San Marcos will arrive at the Viejas Arena on Wednesday and San Diego Christian two days later.
These would fill the remaining two non-conference slots of a maximum of seven this season.
“We’re not playing Arizona State until December 10th, and I didn’t want to miss out on minutes,” said Dutcher. “Besides, these guys are tired of practicing anyway. … I want to play as many as possible while everyone is healthy and we get the opportunity to do so. We’re only going to get teams in town that are already testing and that we know can play. “
Officials Eric Curry and Randy McCall, who played SDSU’s game against UCLA, had the Aztecs again on Friday. They were joined by Deldre Carr … The Aztecs have won 14 non-conference games in a row, 11 in a row in November … Johnson has played in 20 career games. SDSU won all 20 … The Aztecs got 41 points from the bank … SDSU was 13 of 32 behind the arch, 12 of 30 in and 14 of 22 on the line … SDSU newcomer Lamont Butler was guarding UC Irvine freshman DJ Davis, his teammate at Riverside Poly last season … Brad Greene led the anteaters with 11 points and eight rebounds. Collin Welp and Dawson Baker had 10 points each … The anteaters have a quick turnaround and are hosting Bethesda College on Saturday night.