SAN DIEGO — A conference championship race has been sighted at San Diego State, and it will be in full view tonight when the Aztec women's basketball team plays host to Creighton in Peterson Gym.
The 7:30 p.m. game should feature:
* Tension. The Aztecs (16-7, 8-2) are third--but only one game behind first-place Creighton (20-3, 9-1) in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
* History. Creighton, 4-0 against SDSU, is the only WAC team the Aztecs have never defeated. They already have played once this season, at Creighton, and SDSU lost, 82-73.
* Emotion. This is the final week that seniors Kieishsha Garnes and Michelle Miles will play at home.
Garnes, a center who transferred to SDSU from Hilbert (N.Y.) Community College, already has entered the SDSU record book in fewer than two full seasons. She currently ranks eighth in career scoring (1,124 points) and eighth in career rebounding (473 rebounds).
Miles, a point guard who transferred to SDSU from UCLA, leads the team with 150 assists this season--twice as many as runner-up Falisha Wright's 75.
SDSU's only remaining home games are tonight and Saturday, against Texas El Paso. Miles' parents have flown in from Colorado for this week's games.
"(Garnes and Miles) will always be very special because they were the first group," said Beth Burns, third-year SDSU coach. "They were the believers. There are going to be championships in our future but, for those two, the future is now."
Just don't ask the Aztecs about the last time they played Creighton.
"A nightmare," Miles said.
Said Garnes: "I can't say horrifying, but it was, whooo , what did Michelle say? A nightmare? I don't know, but it seemed like a blackout. Things were going from one end to the other end. Upstairs, downstairs. We opened with a lead and then went backwards instead of forwards."
The Aztecs turned the ball over 32 times. But they out-rebounded Creighton by 20, 43-23, and lost by only nine, 82-73.
"If we had only taken care of the ball . . ." Burns said.
She remembers double-dribbles . . . an SDSU length-of-the-court pass that hit an Aztec in the back . . . at least three instances in which an Aztec simply passed the ball out of bounds. . . .
"It won't happen again," Burns said. "They know who they are, what to do . . . they'll be ready."
They say they are ready. Garnes still remembers fouling out with just over a minute left in last year's season-ending, 78-75 loss to Creighton in the WAC tournament. She recalls how Creighton's Shannon Struby walked over to her and said, "Good job, good job."
Said Garnes: "That got me mad. I felt she was happy I was out."
She probably was. Garnes was WAC player of the year last season. This season, she leads the WAC in scoring (21 points a game) despite having two and three defenders hanging on her nearly every game. In the Feb. 1 loss to Creighton, Garnes had 35 points.
"As a team, we have such strong feelings," Burns said. "It's not just the fact that this is for first place. Obviously, that's important.
"But they just want to beat Creighton."