SAN DIEGO — Unlike the exhibition game against Illinois or the regular-season opener against Nebraska, the Eastern Illinois men's basketball team couldn't keep up with Monday's big-time opponent. San Diego State jumped out to a decent lead early and the Panthers never could recover fully.
The Aztecs wound up shooting 52 percent (32-of-61) from the field compared to 36 percent (24-of-66) for the Panthers. SDSU was 13-of-25 (52 percent) from 3-point range compared to only nine-of-30 (30 percent) three's going in for the Panthers. SDSU attempted 26 free throws compared to only seven for EIU. The Panthers had 18 turnovers that SDSU turned into 25 points.
All of those were problematic for the Panthers as SDSU came away with a 94-63 victory on Monday. EIU falls to 1-3 on the season.
"They are a really good defensive team and when you go out there and the things you are doing don't work from the first few games, you panic. We took some rushed shots and they make you rush. We did force them into turnovers, but they were awful good," EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. "I thought when we got down, we took some quick shots and some of them went in and that was somewhat fool's gold. We had some possessions in there where we should've ran offense and they made a run on us."
The Panthers got off to a slow start and San Diego State took advantage. With the game tied at 2-2, SDSU went on an 11-3 run as Malik Pope scored six points and Trey Kell scored the other five points.
Terrell Lewis hit a 3-pointer to stop the run and Mussa Dama scored on a layup to make it 12-8 with 14:18 left in the half, but Pope and Kell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 14-0 run. The Aztecs hit four three's during the run as Kell hit another one and Devin Watson connected on a shot from behind the arc.
The Panthers played with San Diego State for the rest of the half, but didn't make a big enough dent in the Aztecs lead as they went into the half down 39-25.
The Aztecs went on a 21-5 run in the second half to build a 76-45 lead with 7:56 remaining. Matt Mitchell scored 16 points during the run. Mitchell finished with 31 points for the Aztecs on 10-of-13 shooting, including seven 3-pointers. Pope finished with a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Kell had 14 points and seven assists and Watson had 10 points.
"Mitchell, he's a scorer and a really good player. He hadn't made them in the first few games and you are hoping it's for one more game before he turns it on and that wasn't the case," Spoonhour said. "Their guards are really good. Pope played under control. It was hard to stay in front of Watson and Kell."
Starks led EIU with 17 points and seven rebounds. Montell Goodwin scored 14 points and Michael Chavers had 11 points.
"Jajuan, he's doing a good job. He goes and rebounds the ball and he did a whole lot right," Spoonhour said. "We wanted to be more competitive, obviously. We need to respond to this the right way. It's not just saying you are going to be good, we have to go out and do it."
EIU returns to Lantz Arena at 7:30 p.m. on Friday against Fontbonne University.