SAN DIEGO — Everything has turned sour for the San Diego State men's basketball season.
The Aztecs have lost 9 of 10 games. They have been missing two of their top three big men with injuries for a month.
However, SDSU gets a second chance when it opens Western Athletic Conference play at 7:30 tonight against Air Force in the Sports Arena.
"I've said from the beginning that I thought we would turn things around," forward John Martens said. "I know we can play better than we have. Opening at home with our first two league games should help. If we win those two, hopefully it will be a new start for us."
After Air Force, SDSU will play host to Colorado State on Saturday night. Before the season began, WAC coaches and media picked Air Force, Colorado State and Hawaii as the conference's three worst teams.
But the Aztecs also must be placed in the weak group based on their preseason performance. The Aztecs' only victory was a 63-62 victory against Florida.
Coach Smokey Gaines was so frustrated that he benched Anthony Watson, the team's leading scorer, in a 61-49 loss to Fresno State five days ago. Gaines thought Watson had played too casually the night before in a 77-76 loss to North Carolina Charlotte.
Watson, an All-WAC first-team player last season, is expected to return tonight.
"This should help his mind," Gaines said of Watson's one-game punishment. "I'm not here to hurt him. I'm here to help him."
In Watson's absence, freshman Johnny Scruggs made the most of his first college start and had personal season highs of 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Air Force (6-5) is beginning its sixth WAC season. The Falcons were 3-13 in three of their previous five WAC seasons and 2-14 in the other two.
"They've won more than we have this year," Gaines said. "They have the confidence that they can win. We've come close to winning four or five games, but you have to know how to win. Once you get that confidence, you win those kinds of games."