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No. 22 San Diego St. battles Saint Mary’s in Phoenix

No. 22 San Diego State is hoping a four-day break between games will reinvigorate the team heading into its matchup against Saint Mary’s on Saturday afternoon at the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix.

San Diego State played three games in three days two weeks ago at the Maui Invitational, returned home and hosted three more games in seven days.

“It’s been really hard,” San Diego State guard Darrion Trammell said. “We’re grinding these games out. We have a hard schedule. We play a lot of great teams. It’s kind of been back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back.”

The Aztecs (7-2) also battled a flu bug that spread through the team as well as a few injuries within their rotation.

Those challenges forced San Diego State to dig even deeper to beat UC Irvine on a last-second 3-pointer on Nov. 29, and rally from an eight-point deficit with just over 10 minutes left to beat Troy 60-55 on Monday.

“We’re pulling out a lot of hard games,” Trammell said. “We have a lot of things we’re working through, sickness, injuries, but we’re a tough team. I think that’s going to take us far.”

Trammell, a transfer from Seattle, has been slowed after combining for 39 points in the first two games of the season, when he shot 12-for-20 from the floor and 7-for-10 from 3-point distance. However, he’s averaging 11.2 points in the six games since while shooting 30.2 percent from the floor and 4-for-25 from 3-point distance.

Matt Bradley has also seen his numbers decline this season.

He averaged 16.9 points for the Aztecs last season and shot 43.8 percent from the floor but is averaging 12.1 points this season while shooting 39.8.

“It’s been tough, but I’m happy with our record and where we sit right now,” Bradley said.

Saint Mary’s (7-3) ended a three-game losing streak with a 66-46 win against visiting Missouri State on Wednesday night.

The Gaels were limited to 26 points in the first half but shot 59.3 percent from the floor in the second half to pull away.

“That’s kind of been our Achilles heel, is the first half we score so low we can’t separate,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “We have an opportunity to separate and we don’t.”

Saint Mary’s had won its first six games to start the season but lost three in a row heading into the matchup with Missouri State.

The Gaels lost in overtime to Washington in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy on Nov. 24, and then lost another close game to New Mexico on Nov. 30.

Saint Mary’s took on top-ranked Houston on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, and trailed by just six points with nine minutes left before eventually losing 53-48.

Mitchell Saxen was held to four points against Houston but bounced back to tie his career high with 19 points on Wednesday night.

“We kind of just needed to rediscover the toughness that we have and the ability to grind teams down for 40 minutes,” Saxen said after the win against Missouri State.

–Field Level Media