The USD-SDSU basketball rivalry was renewed for a 38th meeting as SDSU beat USD, 79-76, on Nov. 29 at San Diego State’s Cox Arena. This was the fourth straight year the Hall of Champions hosted Sports at Lunch before the big game with the rival coaches.
What’s that expression? Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend and four times is downright scary.
If the loser of this season’s city championship game advances to the NCAA tournament, it will be the fourth straight year it’s happened in the rivalry between the schools.
In 2001, USD won but SDSU advanced to the 2002 NCAA Tournament as the Mountain West Conference tournament champion.
In 2002, SDSU won but USD advanced to the 2003 NCAA Tournament as the West Coast Conference champion.
In 2005, USD won by SDSU advanced to the 2006 NCAA Tournament as the MWC regular season and conference tournament champion.
That’s three NCAA appearances by San Diego college teams in the past five seasons. The college game is growing up in San Diego, with large crowds at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion and SDSU’s Cox Arena providing more evidence.
Although SDSU is off to a 7-0 start and heavily favored in Wednesday’s 38th meeting at Cox Arena, SDSU coach Steve Fisher reminded guests at Sports at Lunch Tuesday at the Hall of Champions that USD was the underdog last season when the Toreros upset the Aztecs, 90-80.
“I was set up for up for a question,” Fisher said, refeering to an earlier interview. “They asked me if the series is getting lopsided. I reminded them they won my first three years here, we won the next three years and they won last year. So I’m still behind the curve.”
Then Fisher turned to USD senior Ross DeRogatis, who hit 6 of 8 3-pointers to score 20 points in the Toreros’ win last year.
“If you want to mail one in to us, Ross, we’ll take it,” Fisher said.
Fisher also noted that DeRogatis had shaved his head, similar to last year’s style, after suffering through a shooting slump this year in the Toreros’ 2-3 start. Fisher remarked he didn’t recognize DeRogatis, with a full head of hair and missing shots, when he watched tape of USD games.
“I have a retro wig we can give you to wear,” Fisher said. “He shot lights out against us last year.”
USD coach Brad Holland was unable to attend the lunch while home battling the flu he came home with from the Toreros’ loss Sunday at UT San Antonio. Assistant coach Sam Scholl, who played for the Toreros in the city championship game in 1999 and 2000, took Holland’s place.
“This has been a great rivalry for the nine years I’ve been around it,” Scholl said. “The crowd will be loud and there will be a lot of energy. This is a game the players want to be able to say they won.”
Both coaches also commented on the the increased fan support at their home games.
“We’ve won at their place and they’ve won at our place,” Fisher said. “This is good for San Diego and good for college basketball.”
USD’s Gyno Pomare and SDSU’s Jon Pastorek also attended Sports at Lunch.