SAN DIEGO — After losing two straight games in front of noisy sellout crowds in New Mexico and Texas El Paso, it's difficult to believe the San Diego State basketball team in looking forward to its next road game.
Actually, the "visiting" Aztecs can't wait to face United States International University, staring at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the San Diego Sports Arena.
The Aztecs only agree to play the Gulls (1-15) if they were paid a guarantee as the visiting team and were also allowed to include the game as a home game for their season ticket holders.
USIU desperately wanted to play the game in an attempt to renew a rivalry that has been dormant since the 1972-73 season. For the right price, the Aztecs were willing to oblige them.
The way it has turned out, the Aztecs hope Tuesday night's game will enable them to regroup after their lost weekend in the Southwest, to work on their defense (which allowed 181 points in two games) and to allow some of their substitutes an opportunity to play.
"I know they're not one of the toughest teams in the world to play," Aztec center Leonard Allen said, "so it will be a good game to work on some things."
The Aztecs are 12-4 overall and 4-2 in the WAC. They are tied for fourth place with Brigham Young University. SDSU, which has played four of its first six conference games on the road, will play its next WAC game at Hawaii on Thursday night.
At home on the road: Forward Ira Harge was the only Aztec who might have expected to feel at home over the weekend, but not the way he performed Friday night against New Mexico. His limited playing time made the homecoming a bittersweet experience.
The 6-foot 7-inch sophomore from St. Piux X High in Albuquerque, N.M. played briefly in front of his family, including his father, Ira Harge Sr., a former New Mexico All-American, NBA and ABA player, in Friday night's game.
As a senior at St. Piux X, Harge averaged 15 points and 13.6 rebounds a game and was named to the all-New Mexico first team. At SDSU, he is a backup forward averaging less than two points per game. His younger brother, 6-8 Joey, a star at Piux S, will attend Oregon State on a basketball scholarship next fall.
"When I left Albuquerque, I wasn't the highest recruit coming out of high school," Ira Harge said, "so people kind of expected me to be where I am. That upsets me."
Harge, who is confident that he'll eventually get more playing time, had two rebounds, one missed shot and no points in five minutes of action Friday night. He didn't score or get a rebound the next night at Texas El Paso.
Those are not the kind of performances that made his father a professional. Ira Harge Sr. played pro basketball in Spain, had a brief stint with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, and played with six ABA teams. Harge, who was a teammate of Aztec Coach Smokey Gaines at Northeastern High in Detroit, is a car salesman in Albuquerque.
Ira Harge Jr. said his father does not put a lot of pressure on him to succeed.
"He was my assistant coach in high school for two years," Harge said, "so I still kind of listen for him whenever I'm out on the court."
Ira Harge Sr. sat court-side at both games this weekend, but he saved his advice until after the game.
"He just told me to have fun when I get in the game," Harge Jr. said. "He said it looked like I was kind of tight and trying too hard. He told me to play my game and do what I can do."
Speaking freely: John DeMott, the public address announcer for the San Diego Sockers, is known for his melodramatic pre-game introductions and his array of nicknames for the San Diego players.
Well, met the John DeMott of the WAC.
Paul Strelzin, the principal of Charles Jr. High in El Paso and longtime public address announcer at UTEP basketball games, has a nickname for every Miner and a comment on almost every basket.
When guard Luster Goodwin scores, Strelzin shouts out, "Pony Express time." Juden Smith is the "Beast" and Dave Feitl is the "Cheese." and so on ...
Aztec injury report: Guard Creon Dorsey suffered a muscle strain in his right thigh in Friday's game against New Mexico. Dorsey also had a bruised right heel and a sprained ligament in his right knee.
Mike Haupt has a sprained right knee. Allen has a sprained right ankle, and Harge has a sprained finger. Forward John Martens still is recovering from arthroscopic surgery performed on his left knee last month, but he was able to play 20 minutes against New Mexico and four minutes against UTEP.
Despite the rash of injuries, trainer Bob Moore said no one is expected to miss any playing.