TEMPE, Ariz. — Just five games into his first basketball season at San Diego State, Coach Jim Brandenburg is starting to shake things up.
Brandenburg tried a new lineup Saturday night, but the results were the same. SDSU lost to Tulsa, 67-59, in the consolation game of the Kactus tournament.
Tulsa was led by Tracy Moore with 21 points. For SDSU, Tony Ross scored 15 points and Bryan Williams added 14. Once again, it was a game that the Aztecs found a way to keep reasonably close after they fell far behind early.
Save for a second-half collapse against host Arizona State in the first round Friday night, that has been the trademark of this team.
Brandenburg replaced three starters Saturday, but the early action remained familiar for the Aztecs (2-3). Brandenburg replaced Mitch McMullen at center with Sam Johnson, Juan Espinoza at small forward with Caldin Rogers, and Ross, the Aztecs' leading scorer, with Ty Walker at shooting guard. The experiment lasted all of 3 minutes, 35 seconds.
"I want to try some new combinations," said Brandenburg. "We're a new team with a lot of new players. We've got to develop some rhythm."
SDSU fell behind, 5-2, and out came Walker and Johnson, with Rogers to follow six minutes later. Tulsa (2-1) scored eight more points before SDSU answered. But then, as they have done in almost every game this season, the Aztecs came back.
They closed to 15-10 with 9:23 left in the half, but the Golden Hurricane went on another spurt. Tulsa outscored SDSU, 15-6, to take its biggest lead of the half at 30-16 with 3:22 left on a three-point play by Moore. Moore, who led Tulsa at the half with 10 points, had stolen the ball from Walker, cruised for the layup and was fouled by Rogers.
But just when it seemed that the Aztecs were about to fold, they crawled back again. They scored the last 13 points of the half to close to 30-29. SDSU even had a chance to lead at the half, but Ross' 35-footer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
"We had a chance in the first half to really fall behind, but we came back," Brandenburg said. "We did the same thing in the second half. We got behind and we came right back at them. I'm pleased that we're showing we won't quit."
All that hard work collapsed in the first five minutes of the second half. Tulsa scored the first 18 points to take a 48-29 lead.
Walker finally broke the scoring drought when he made a three-point basket with 14:32 left to play.
The Aztecs cut the lead to nine, 52-43, on McMullen's three-point play with 7:35 remaining.
SDSU did show improvement in some areas. The Aztecs had their best game at the free-throw line, making 14 of 18 attempts. And Rogers, who had only six rebounds in the first four games, responded with a team-high 10.
But the Aztecs shot only 42.6% (20 of 47). Tulsa shot only 35.6%, making 21 of 59. SDSU also committed a season-high 27 turnovers, of which Rogers and Williams had eight each. SDSU has 95 turnovers in five games, an average of 19 a game.