Trojans sputter on road as late rally comes up short

Prior to tipoff, San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders was arm-in-arm with face-painted college students, jumping while in the front row of the stands leading the popular “I believe that we will win” chant.

Behind Sanders, a rowdy and intimidating crowd packed into Viejas Arena, where San Diego State has won all of their first three home games.

The Trojans, who only had one player available who had even started a road game at USC — sophomore guard Maurice Jones — fell in its first game of the season outside of the Galen Center, 56-54, despite a furious late-game comeback.

With the Trojans (1-2) trailing 54-45, sophomore forward Garrett Jackson made back-to-back three-point shots to bring USC within three points. On the next offensive possession, Jones banked in a deep 3-point shot to tie the score at 54 with 6.8 seconds left in the game.

Sophomore guard Xavier Thames drove the length of court for the Aztecs (4-1) and laid the ball in with 1.8 seconds remaining to give San Diego State the lead. The Trojans failed to get a final shot off before time expired.

Jones led the Trojans with 15 points and made 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc. Jackson had 13 points off the bench, and junior forward Aaron Fuller added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Jackson entered the game midway through the first half and proceeded to shoot an air ball on his first three-point attempt. He remained confident, and made jump shots on USC’s next two offensive possession, finishing with six first-half points.

Fuller added 10 first-half points to help the Trojans go into halftime with a 25-21 lead.

Junior center James Blasczyk limped off court in the first half with what appeared to be an ankle injury but returned in the second half.

The Trojans return to the Galen Center to play Cal Poly on Saturday.

The Mustangs (1-1) return four starters from a squad that went 15-15 last season.

Senior guard Amaurys Fermin paces Cal Poly with an average of 15.5 points per game through two contests, and senior forward Will Taylor adds 14 points per game.

The Mustangs are more experienced, starting three seniors and a junior, but the Trojans have a significant height advantage. Taylor, at 6-foot-7, is Cal Poly’s tallest starter, while USC opens with Dedmon, who stands at seven-feet, and brings 7-foot-1 junior center James Blasczyk off the bench.

Tip-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., the earliest home start time of the season.