No. 24 San Diego State aims to halt a two-game slide Tuesday night when it hosts a strong UC Irvine team.
The Aztecs (4-2) won their first four games of the season before being outclassed 87-70 by No. 14 Arizona in the Maui Invitational semifinals and collapsing one night later during a 78-74 overtime loss to No. 9 Arkansas in the third-place game.
San Diego State led Arkansas by four with 17 seconds left in regulation but a foul by Lamont Butler four seconds later allowed the Razorbacks to move within two. Then Butler lost the ball for a turnover with seven seconds remaining and Arkansas scored the tying hoop to force the extra session and eventually prevailed.
"We competed really hard for two games in a row," Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. "We played Arizona and Arkansas back-to-back and let Arizona slip out on us late in the second half. Arkansas, we battled to the end, had a chance to win, and couldn't close.
"So we learned a lot about our team, that we're tough. We're strong enough to play with power 5 schools, and that we have to use these moments we had here in Hawaii to learn and grow as a team. And we will do that."
Seattle University transfer Darrion Trammell leads the Aztecs with a 14.2 scoring average. He has twice scored 21 points, including in the loss to Arizona.
Matt Bradley, who averaged 16.9 points last season, got off to a slow start by scoring in single digits in four of the first five games. But he broke out with season highs of 23 points, seven rebounds and three steals against the Razorbacks. Bradley is averaging 11.2 points.
UC Irvine (6-1) has won three consecutive games. The Anteaters' most impressive outing of the season is a 69-56 road victory over Oregon on Nov. 11.
UC Irvine is fresh off winning the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Anteaters routed Nicholls 83-56 on Friday and beat New Mexico State 85-68 in Saturday's tournament championship game when DJ Davis poured in a career-high 25 points and made 5 of 7 3-point shots.
Davis leads the Anteaters in scoring (15.0) and 3-pointers (22). He is just 13-for-34 from inside the arc (38.2%), but 22-for-47 (46.7%) from long range.
"He is more than just a 3-point shooter," UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said. "He is a good passer and can score mid-range."
Dawson Baker (13.4) is the only other UC Irvine player scoring in double figures.
The Anteaters have recorded 10 consecutive winning seasons and made two NCAA Tournament appearances during that stretch, including the school-best 31-6 squad in 2018-19, when UCI beat Kansas State in the first round before losing to Oregon in the second.
Though the schools are located about an hour apart off of Interstate 5, this is just the second meeting this century. San Diego State won the other 77-58 during the 2020-21 season.
The Aztecs have won the past three meetings and lead the series 11-7.
--Field Level Media