SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Toreros are growing up quickly under Sam Scholl, who was promoted to head coach after a tumultuous final few weeks of last season.
The Toreros earned a signature win Wednesday night, rallying to stun crosstown rival San Diego State 73-61 on the Aztecs’ court. Isaiah Pineiro scored 21 points and Isaiah Wright had five of his 18 points in a key stretch in the second half.
While ecstatic with the win, the Toreros saved their biggest celebration for the locker room, where they doused Scholl with water.
“That’s always fun,” said a somewhat disheveled Scholl. His shirt was untucked and he had a towel draped over his left shoulder.
Scholl, 41, said his favorite moment was how the Toreros handled the win.
“We didn’t go run and storm the floor, because these are the kind of wins that our program is supposed to get, supposed to aspire to,” he said. “We didn’t act like we won a national championship. It’s good win against a really, really good program. It’s a great step forward for us but we have a lot to learn and we have another game coming up.”
Scholl was elevated to head coach in the tumult following the resignation of Lamont Smith. Smith had been placed on administrative leave after being arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the end of a road trip. Although no charges were filed, Smith offered his resignation and the school accepted it.
The Toreros (7-2) fought through foul trouble to beat the Aztecs (5-3) for just the second time in the last 13 years. It was the first time they’d won at San Diego State since Dec. 9, 2000.
San Diego shot poorly in the first half but trailed just 33-26 after the first 20 minutes, keeping it in reach for the upset. USD outscored SDSU 47-28 in the second half.
USD missed all 11 3-pointers in the first half, but suddenly got hot from behind the arc, with five different players hitting long shots in the first six minutes of the second half.
Alex Floresca hit a 3 just 18 seconds into the second half and the Toreros came to life. Wright and Finn Sullivan added 3s, and USD took its first lead, 39-38, when Pineiro made two free throws after Jalen McDaniels was whistled for a technical foul.
Pineiro was called for his fourth foul with 10:57 to go to put the Aztecs in the double bonus and Shackel made two free throws for the Aztecs’ last lead of the night, 49-47.
Wright then gave USD the lead for good, converting a 3-point play and then scoring off a nice spin move to make it 52-49. Olin Carter hit a jumper and Tyler Williams a 3 for a 57-49 lead with 7:16 to go.
“One of the things I like so much about this group so far is not once have we ever panicked,” Scholl said. “There have been a lot of different situations in the course of the season that we’ve been in, down seven, down eight, at UW, at Ole Miss, and never once have our guys panicked.
“We certainly haven’t done some things great, but we’ve never panicked.”
USD lost by three at Washington and by seven at Ole Miss. It rallied to beat Colorado of the Pac-12 70-64 at home on Nov. 20
McDaniels fouled out with 3:11 left and Jordan Schakel joined him on the bench less than a minute later.
Devin Watson led the Aztecs with 22 points while Matt Mitchell had 13 and McDaniels 12.
USD “played with great experience,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said. “They looked like they didn’t panic. They played their system, they played their game, and they played very well.
“I think the guys got frustrated the second half,” Dutcher said about the Aztecs. “And that’s the way basketball works. When the ball doesn’t go in and you’re not shooting very well, you get frustrated at the defensive end. We just didn’t score enough.”
USD outrebounded SDSU 32-30.
“We didn’t take it personal,” SDSU senior Jeremy Hemsley said. “They were tougher than us. We rebounded soft. I hate to use that word but that’s how we rebounded, just real soft. We can’t keep getting outrebounded because we see what the outcome is every time.”
Hemsley said Watson was the only SDSU player “really playing with heart.”
Said Watson: “I’m not too fond of USD. At all.”
Asked why, he said, “No reason.”
USD: The Toreros were without 6-foot-10 forward Yauhen Massalski, who sprained an ankle early in a loss at Mississippi a week earlier. He averages 7.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.
San Diego State: The Aztecs returned to full strength after an impressive 75-65 win at Illinois State. Nolan Narain didn’t travel because he had flu-like symptoms and Watson and Jordan Schakel weren’t feeling well.
USD hosts Cal State Northridge on Sunday afternoon.
SDSU plays at California on Saturday night.
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