SAN DIEGO — For the first time in a long, the San Diego State men’s basketball team won’t be coached by Steve Fisher this season, as the long-time Aztecs head coach retired after the 2016-17 season. Fisher was the head coach at SDSU since 1999.
But don’t expect the Aztecs to change much since it’s a familiar face on the bench. It may be Brian Dutcher’s first season as the head coach at San Diego State, but he moves just a spot over on the bench.
Dutcher came to SDSU in 1999 along with Fisher as an assistant coach. Then in 2011, he was named the associate head coach and coach-in-waiting for whenever Fisher decided to retire.
Now Dutcher takes over the SDSU program and hosts Eastern Illinois at 9:30 p.m. on Monday at Viejas Arena.
“I’ve known those guys for a long time, and they are a well-coached team,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. “They get good athletes and get them to play hard. They have a bigger team than they’ve had in the past and the coaching staff has done an unbelievable job out there. It wasn’t always a winning program, but Dutch and Fish did a great job of making this into a great program.”
San Diego State hasn’t lost less than 19 games since the 2004-05 season. Last season the Aztecs went 19-14.
SDSU is 2-1 this season. The Aztecs opened the season by beating San Diego Christian and then suffered a 90-68 loss to Arizona State. SDSU bounced back with a big 83-52 win over McNeese State on Friday.
Spoonhour said the Aztecs are tall and athletic and the Panthers will have to rely on their quickness in this game.
“You can’t prepare for the size they have. They have a 6-9 wing, a 6-11 player and a 7-1 center and that’s an NBA size team,” Spoonhour said. “The thing that we learned at Nebraska and with their size, you can’t play over the top. You have to play under them and be quicker. SDSU will do the same thing. They are good defensively and they make it hard on you. We have to play closer to the ground and play quicker.”
EIU comes into the game with a 1-2 record. The Panthers started the season with losses to Nebraska and Western Illinois. They picked up an 80-79 win over IUPUI on Friday.
“I like the way we’ve rebounded and I like that we’ve attacked,” Spoonhour said. “We had a couple of stretches with droughts on Friday, but a lot of that is guys figuring out roles and this is a really big test because this team will be unlike any that we will see the rest of the year. It’s another opportunity to play another good team and see where we stand.”
Point guard Terrell Lewis led EIU in Friday’s win with a career-high 25 points. He hit seven 3-pointers and moved into fifth place all-time in career 3s made at EIU with 202. The senior needs seven more 3s to tie Marc Polite for fourth all-time. He already set EIU’s career assists record last season and has 474 in his four seasons. He had five assists on Friday.
After his 25-point night, Lewis has 978 points for his career, needing only 22 points to become the 37th member of the 1,000-point club at EIU.