San Diego State didn't have too many issues during its first of an expected three consecutive games without highly touted freshman Winston Shepard. In its next one, it'll face a little stiffer competition.
After dispatching a local NAIA opponent, the 25th-ranked Aztecs will visit Missouri State on Saturday as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.San Diego State (1-1) received word Tuesday that Shepard would serve a suspension for violating an unspecified NCAA rule. The forward had four points and seven rebounds over 21 minutes during his collegiate debut, a 62-49 loss to then-No. 9 Syracuse on Nov. 11, a game that took place on the flight deck of the San Diego-based USS Midway.The school is appealing the penalty but the suspension will remain in place during that process."The timing is never good when you have players that you're counting on who can't play," coach Steve Fisher said. "What it does is it allows more opportunity for others and that's good. ... Hopefully, we will find ways to win with or without him."Without Shepard available Tuesday, San Diego State routed San Diego Christian 91-57 behind Jamaal Franklin's 28 points and 12 rebounds. Chase Tapley contributed 18 points but the Aztecs struggled from 3-point range again, missing 15 of 19 attempts.They were 1 of 18 from beyond the arc in the loss to Syracuse.San Diego State will try to improve those numbers during its only trip outside of California until the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in late December. Before heading off to that tournament, the Aztecs' only other games away from home will take place at Southern California on Nov. 25, and against UCLA in Anaheim on Dec. 1."Even for veterans, road trips are different. None are easy. That will be our next challenge," Fisher said.During this trip, the Aztecs will face a Bears squad whose 13-man roster features six freshmen and only two seniors."It's going to be an eye-opening experience for some of our guys, but I think they understand that," coach Paul Lusk said.One of those freshmen, Gavin Thurman, had a team-best 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and eight rebounds in an 89-61 season-opening win over NAIA foe Philander Smith on Nov. 9. Marcus Marshall contributed 16 points while also making his collegiate debut, and Drew Wilson (12 points, 11 rebounds) became the first Bears freshman to post a double-double in four seasons.The schools are meeting for the first time since San Diego State's 74-70 victory in Springfield during the opening round of the 2007 NIT.The Aztecs have split their four all-time matchups with the Bears.