Matt Kenyon, Staff Wrter
Antonio Zaragoza, Editor in Chief
The Aztecs faced Syracuse for the second time in history on Veterans Day Sunday aboard the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that has seen more than half a million flight missions since it was commissioned in 1945.
At tip-off, the wind was moving at 13 mph through sunny skies in 63-degree temperatures aboard the historic carrier.
The ninth-ranked Orangemen rarely leave New York for non- conference play, but the Battle on the Midway against No. 20 Aztecs was too intriguing to pass up. Both teams wore camouflage uniforms in honor of veterans.
Syracuse and legendary coach Jim Boeheim, along with the outdoor conditions, proved to be too much for head coach Steve Fisher and the Aztecs, who lost their first game of the year 62-49.
Junior forward C.J. Fair led the Orange on a 17-2 run to start the game.
The Aztecs struggled against the compact two-three zone of the Orange, scoring only seven points in the first 10 minutes of play to go along with seven turnovers.
The Aztecs shot into the sun and against the wind in the first half and headed into the locker room at halftime down 33-19. The Aztecs shot only 24 percent from the field, 29 percent from the free throw line and turned the ball over 12 times in the first half.
Syracuse shot 42 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line.
The second half started with more of the same from the Aztecs missed shots and turnovers. The Orange reached their biggest lead of the game with nine minutes left to go, and never looked back.
Fair and sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams led all scorers with 17 points.
Overall, the Orange shot 45 percent from the field and 57 percent from the free throw line, while the Aztecs shot 27 percent from the field and 42 percent from the line.
“The conditions were the same for both teams, so that’s not an excuse to miss free throws,” sophomore forward JJ O’Brien said. “We have to make shots and we got to make free throws regardless of conditions.”
Syracuse out-rebounded SDSU 45-44 and blocked blocked 10 shots.
Junior guard Jamaal Franklin struggled through most of the game, but was still able to lead the Aztecs with 11 points on only three field goals. O’Brien and senior guard James Rahon also put in nine points, with Rahon hitting the only three-pointer of the 18 Aztec attempts.
“This game was everything that anyone could hope to have. Anybody that came, anybody that watched, would say that it was wonderful event and that was a big part of what everybody wanted,” Fisher said. “The biggest part that we wanted was the win and we didn’t get it.”
Nonetheless, the Battle of the Midway was a significant game for the Aztecs.
“It was a special feeling going out there with the new jerseys, seeing the sky our families in the stand and the whole community here. It was really special,” senior guard Chase Tapley said. “It didn’t happen, but we can look at this game and feel confident about how we played and how much effort we put out there.”
The Aztecs return to Viejas Arena to face off against the San Diego Christian College Hawks tonight at 7 p.m.