SAN DIEGO -- This game was an enormous mismatch when it was scheduled, tiny St. Katherine College in its inaugural season of basketball against San Diego State, which has played in the past four NCAA tournaments.
Sophomore forward Winston Shepard scored a career-high 21 points and Dwayne Polee II had 19 points and 12 rebounds as No. 20 San Diego State overwhelmed St. Katherine College 118-35 on Friday night for its ninth straight win.
"This was the last gimme game on the schedule so we just wanted to come out and have some fun and at the same time respect the game and play hard and try to get better on the things we need to get better at as a team going into conference (play)," Shepard said.
SDSU (10-1) finished a three-game stretch against outmanned teams. The competition gets considerably tougher when coach Steve Fisher's Aztecs open Mountain West Conference play at Colorado State on Wednesday and then visit No. 16 Kansas on Jan. 5.
The 83-point win was San Diego State's largest victory margin since moving to Division I in 1970-71. The previous largest was 60 points, 128-68 over Morgan State on Dec. 1, 1984. The Aztecs became the first Division I team since Oregon State in 2000 to hold three straight opponents to fewer than 40 points.
It was the second-largest margin in the country this season. Utah -- which hosts St. Katherine on Saturday afternoon -- beat Evergreen State 128-44 on Nov. 8. It was the fifth-largest since the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
Polee said the Aztecs didn't feel sorry for St. Katherine College, located in northern San Diego County, as the lead reached 60, 70 and finally 80 points.
"I mean, we respect the game," he said. "We love the game so much, so we're just going to go hard anyways, no matter if we're playing the No. 1 team in the nation or the lowest team in the nation. We're still going to come out and play hard regardless of who we play."
Matt Shrigley hit a 3-pointer off the opening tip, and SDSU raced to leads of 13-1, 27-3 and 43-10.
"Well, I can thank God nobody got decapitated," St. Katherine College coach Scott Mitchell said.
The Firebirds made only 15 of 68 shots (22.1 percent) and only 3 of 38 (7.9 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
"We prepare to win. Otherwise, why would we show up? We're a realist. We know who we're playing," said Mitchell, who played at South Dakota and professionally overseas. "We had a really bad shooting night. Part of that is San Diego State's defense. But we got quality shots. We just didn't hit them. We didn't have any problem with their press.
"Coach Fisher's got a great program. We're going to watch them play in the NCAAs and understand that we got a chance to play against them and about 300 other teams in the United States didn't."
St. Katherine College, a tiny orthodox Christian school, is playing its inaugural season of hoops. In the program's only other games against Division I teams, the Firebirds lost 107-36 at Weber State and 88-39 to Utah Valley.
So why schedule this game?
"Well, I'm a competitor and I want my guys to be competitive," Mitchell said. "As a little kid, you want to go to Disneyland. As a grown-up basketball player living in San Diego, you want to play the Aztecs."
Joshua White led the Firebirds (2-12) with nine points.
"It was a good experience. A positive experience. I wish the outcome was a little different. We expected something like this. We expected a well-organized team of continuity," he said. "As a first-year program, we face a lot of adversity playing a team like this. It's a David-and-Goliath type situation. Our goal and No. 1 thing was to keep working until the last buzzer sounded."
And, of course, Goliath won.
The Firebirds at least hit the rim on their first six shots, with their first air ball coming on their seventh shot, by White. St. Katherine's first point, a free throw by Alex Perez, pulled the Firebirds to 13-1. Their first field goal, a left-handed shot by Dante Miller, made it 20-3 with 12:30 to go in the first half.
The Aztecs led 63-17 at halftime. They played without Josh Davis, who had wisdom teeth pulled earlier in the week.
SDSU made it 100-31 on a 3-pointer by Aqeel Quinn with 6:09 to go.
Quinn scored 14 points, Shrigley 12, and Xavier Thames and Spencer 10 apiece for SDSU.
"It'll get a lot harder the next 19 games before Mountain West Conference tournament play," Fisher said. "And that's what we told our team. I also told them that the last three games that we've held three teams under 40 points, we've done it in a fashion that wins no matter who you play. It wasn't wild, crazy stuff, one-on-one. It was team basketball on both ends of the floor, and that's what pleased me the most."
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