USC forward Cheryl Miller stared blankly around the press room Monday night, as teammate Rhonda Windham explained the Trojans' 61-59 upset loss to San Diego State at the Sports Arena.
"We play with a small lineup, and when you have 6-4, 300-pounders going against 6-0, 150-pounders, you're gonna lose something inside," said Windham, USC's 5-5 point guard. "More people are going to have to screen out because Cheryl can't get all the rebounds. That's what seems to be happening now."
To that, Miller could only reply: "I think she just said it all."
Windham was exaggerating a bit. The Aztecs weren't that big. But she wasn't far off in the case of San Diego State center Toni Wallace.
Wallace, who is 6-4 and 230 pounds, was much too big for the Trojans Monday night. She had 15 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Aztecs.
All seven of her baskets came from inside the key, as she repeatedly outmuscled the Trojan front line for high-percentage shots.
San Diego State also outrebounded USC, 50-36, with 17 of those coming on the offensive end.
But even more impressive, the Aztecs beat the Trojans without the services of their best player, Tina Hutchinson. Hutchinson, who aggravated her injured knee in practice Sunday, came off the bench in the second half but wasn't a factor. She didn't have a point or rebound in the five minutes she played.
Hutchinson, who is averaging 20 points a game, has been San Diego State's leading scorer, despite missing five of the Aztecs' 20 games because of a torn ligament.
"The positive thing is we did this without Tina Hutchinson, without an All-American on the floor," Aztec Coach Earnest Riggins said. "That says a lot for our team."
The Aztecs trailed for most of the second half until consecutive jump shots by Penny Toler (who also finished with 15 points) and Dee Dee Duncan put San Diego State on top, 60-58, with 1:16 remaining.
Miller, who scored 24 points, had a chance to tie the game seven seconds later, but she could only make the first free throw in the bonus situation. The Aztecs controlled the rebound on her second shot and earned the victory with some timely offensive rebounding.
Toler missed a jumper on the other end, but Duncan secured the rebound with 38 seconds to play. The Aztecs knocked some time off the game clock, and Renee Overton beat the 30-second clock with her jumper.
The shot missed, but Overton grabbed her own rebound and raced toward half-court, where her dribbling exhibition was interrupted by Miller, who shoved Overton out of bounds with seven seconds left. It was Miller's fifth foul.
Overton made the first free throw to give San Diego State a 61-59 lead, but she missed the second. USC forward Holly Ford snared the rebound, passed up court to Windham, who in turn, hit Yolanda Fletcher.
But Fletcher's jumper from the foul line missed at the buzzer, and the Trojans lost their second straight at the Sports Arena. Louisiana Tech had snapped USC's 53-game, Sports Arena winning streak with its double-overtime victory Saturday.
The Aztecs improved to 4-2 in the Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. and 15-5 overall, while the eighth-ranked Trojans dropped to 1-1 and 11-5.