Down 64-65 with less than 20 seconds to go, one basket separated the Aztecs from a comeback victory. Xavier Thames drove to the basket taking on multiple defenders, dishing the ball to Dwayne Polee for the beautiful game-winning 3-point shot. Boise State’s Derrick Marks still had a chance as he air balled a three with two Aztecs in his face as time expired. This final segment does not even tell the whole story.
Going into the game, most knew that these two teams matchup well against each other. Over the last few years, it seems as if every Aztec/Bronco game has come down to the last play. Boise State is excellent on the perimeter with an outstanding 3-point game. SDSU has the best Opponent FG% in the country, and excels in the 3-point version of the category as well. SDSU also get tons of boards, currently ranked 16 in the country. Boise St. is third in the MWC in rebounds per game.
The 3-point scoring would tell the tail of the first half for the Boise State Broncos. They were excellent and every shot just seemed to go in. SDSU was not playing poor defense necessarily, Boise St. was just on fire. At one point Boise St. was 5/8 from 3 point range in the first half and SDSU had only shot 3 from the arc.
San Diego State went down big early 17-7. They got within two on a few occasions (24-26, 26-28), but just could not seem to cool down Boise’s shooting. The Aztecs also made a lot of poor decisions, allowing a total of 15 turnovers, 9 in the first half. This led to possessions for the Broncos who were also capitalizing on second chance points. SDSU went into the half trailing 33-42.
Josh Davis, who did not play Saturday against Colorado State, was playing with a knee brace. He was visually limited, as you can see him grimace at times. Davis bruised his knee bone in practice last week. Although the country’s 3rd leading rebounder was injured, he still brought his offensive game and made the most of his opportunity. He only managed to carral a conference play-low of 5 rebounds, but turned all of his 3 offensive boards into points. Davis played very aggressive in the paint was was dominating inside. He went 5-7 from the field for 10 points.
The Aztecs continued to struggle for the first part of the 2nd Half. Boise State was dominating going up 13 a few different occasions. With 13:37 left, SDSU was down 43-57, Boise State’s biggest lead of the game at 14. By the 11:48 mark the Broncos still had a convincing 13 point lead, besting the Aztecs 46-59. Then the comeback began.
The Aztecs notched up their defense. You could just feel the energy of SDSU’s swarming defense causing turnovers and shutting down the Boise State offense. The fans at the Taco Bell Arena were going nuts the entire game. You knew that all they wanted to do was rush the court with a victory over a #5 team. As mentioned in a previous article, the Aztec program has a bullseye on it’s back and every team in the MWC is going to give them their best game.
The Aztecs got a few turnovers which led to some points. Xavier Thames at one point had 9 straight points. Before you knew it, SDSU had gone on a 15-0 run and led the Broncos 61-59. The defense is obviously what made this happen. Boise State only managed only 23 points in the second half after scoring 42 in the first. Aztecs were consistent scoring 33 and 34 in the first and second halves, respectively.
Thames really is making a strong argument for Player of the Year with these performances. He pretty much carried the Aztecs offense on his back scoring 23 points (15 in the 2nd half) on 5/7 shooting (3/4 from 3-pt) and 10-11 from the free throw line. His one miss was somewhat crucial as it would have put the Aztecs up 63-61 (instead they were up 62-61). Mikey Thompson would go on to convert a layup which put the Broncos up 62-63.
The Aztecs did not convert on their possession then found themselves down 62-65 after a Derrick Mark’s jumper. SDSU failed again to convert, as they could not finish at the basket with less than a minute to go.
The next 2 series is what changed the game. As Marks was bringing up the ball Xavier Thames had him alone and got a steal. Thames was fouled on a layup, which looked open enough for him to finish. Unfortunately he failed to, but still got the 2 points on each of his free throws. Down 64-65, the Aztecs managed yet another stop. This brings us back to how the article began. Thames took on multiple defenders, leaving Polee open for the 3. SDSU did not have to go for the 3, as they were only down 1, but it pretty much sealed the victory.
J.J. O’Brien had one of his best games in a while even though his stat line only read 9 points and 6 rebounds. Watching the game, he looked great. He had a ton of spin moves and was finishing convincingly. O’Brien took advantage of being defended by smaller guards, going 4-6 from the field. Steve Fisher really did not ask much of O’Brien offensively, which is what explains only 9 points. He was efficient though, and that is what matters.
Winston Shepard had a pretty poor game. He looked like his sloppy self as he just could not finish. Like I have said before, the guy just tries to look too pretty. He has plenty of potential as we all know. He averages 13+ points and 5+ rebounds per game, and is definitely a big part of our success. Shepard is still growing as a player and is learning to contain his own wildness. He did have a few pretty mid-range jumpers, which is what he seems to excel at this season. Winston had 2 rebounds and 6 points on 2/9 shooting — which was a team worst, 22%.
This Aztecs team’s biggest weakness is their offense, and more specifically finishing at the rim. They really lack a 3 point shooter other than Thames. With that said, this was the kind of gritty win that the Aztecs need to have on their resume if they want to be successful in the NCAA Tournament. SDSU just needs to keep winning and the respect will keep coming.