Tag Archives: sdsu basketball

#6 San Diego State Demolishes Utah State

San Diego State University Men’s Basketball took on Utah State at home in the Viejas Arena on Tuesday night. In their previous matchup, it took San Diego State a career high 31-point game by Xavier Thames and overtime to get the win on the road. In that game Utah State played very well against a dominant SDSU defense. They went 9/18 from 3-pt range. Utah State also played well defensively in that game. Tuesday night, was not the same.

San Diego State played smothering defense from start to finish. If you saw the game you know what I am talking about. They pressed and contested every single shot and did not give any easy looks at all throughout the game. They played with a lot of energy and were persistent on the defensive side of the ball. SDSU only gave up 35 points until 2:47 left in the game, when Steve Fisher put players 8-12 in the game. Utah State only managed 34.0% from the field and 5/13 from 3-pt range. Two of those 3’s were made on Utah State’s garbage-time 10-0 run to finish the game.

The Aztec offense produced early and well. Unlike the first meeting, SDSU’s role players played must more efficiently on the offensive side of the ball. Skylar Spencer looked featured in the opening minutes scoring 6 quick points at the basket. The Sophomore forward finished the game with 10 points 3 rebounds and 4 big blocks. He was getting pretty good looks and was finishing throughout the game going 5/7 from the field. They also had Matt Shrigley score a game-high 15 points off the bench. He got it going early in the first half as well as he hit three back-to-back 3-pointers, shooting 4/7 from 3 overall. They also go solid production from Josh Davis who is still nursing the knee injury. Davis went 6/10 for 12 points and 8 rebounds.

SDSU did have sub-par nights from its top-2 scorers. Xavier Thames had a season low 4 points as he had a career high 31 before. Winston Shepard had an off night, missing a lot of open looks, only scoring 4 points on 2/7 shooting. Dwayne Polee, who has been on fire as of late, also had a mild night only scoring one 3-pointer all night.

The Aztecs did not need that production though. Their depth this season is excellent. A lot of role players came alive this game, which is very promising as the NCAA Tournament approaches. If Matt Shrigley is making 3’s, than the Aztecs are going to be a very tough team to beat. Skylar Spencer is a perfect example of this. We need his presence around the basket and he needs to be an asset to our offense. Although Xavier Thames had a low scoring night, he still managed 5 assists and 5 rebounds. He is coming alive as of late with assists. It looks to me like he is trying to work on his game as a point-guard as he looks to go to the NBA next season. If these players can all play good ball and Xavier can continue to dish the ball while getting back to his high scoring self, than SDSU looks in great position to make a run in the tournament.

 

 

Lessons Learned from the Loss in Wyoming

San Diego State University Men’s Basketball Team suffered it’s first conference loss, 2nd overall, to the Cowboys in Wyoming this past Tuesday. The Aztecs looked very sluggish at times and gave up uncharacteristic dunks and easy buckets throughout the game. Wyoming’s offense also managed to cool star player Xavier Thames with their zone scheme. With the Airforce game today, here is what SDSU’s first MWC loss means…

Live and Die By Xavier Thames…

San Diego State’s star player is by far senior point guard Xavier Thames. He averages over 18 points per game, and even more impressive, he has averaged close to 21 points per game in conference play. Tuesday night, Xavier was held without a field goal through the first half and went 3/16 overall. He scored 13 points, which was his lowest in 12 games. In games at Boise State and at Utah, where San Diego was down in the late minutes, Xavier came through in the clutch. Against Boise State, SDSU was down 14 points and he led the initial comeback run with 9 straight points . Thames also had the final assist to Dwayne Polee for the game-winning three. Maybe it was the overall play of Wyoming and the Aztec defense, but Xavier finally failed to come through in the clutch on Tuesday night.

…He Can’t Do it All

Something positive from Xavier’s off night was the play of his fellow Aztec starters. Five Aztecs, including Thames, scored in double-digits. Winston Shepard had 11 points, Josh Davis and J.J. O’Brien both had 10 points, and Dwayne Polee had a team-high 15 points off the bench. Even with the loss, this production is something to be happy about. San Diego State is much deeper this year than it has been in recent years. Say goodbye to only Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley scoring points.

SDSU has a lot of players this year that can score all with their different styles. Despite the knee injury, Josh Davis has managed to be very aggressive in the paint with both scoring and rebounds. J.J. O’Brien has been banging down low as well, but also has good ball handling skills, has a nice spin move, and can hit shallow shots. Winston Shepard has tremendous potential and is currently the Aztecs second leading scorer. He needs to continue to develop and learn to finish at the basket. His mid-range shot is very pretty though. If SDSU wants to be a serious contender in the NCAA Tournament, they will need to continue to have production out of everyone.

Dwayne Polee is Gaining Confidence

Last year Dwayne Polee was named the Pre-Season favorite for Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Award. So much for that. Polee rarely got playing time last year. This year Steve Fisher is giving him the ball more and Polee is taking advantage of the opportunity by making plays.

Dwayne Polee is very lengthy, athletic, and plays terrific defense, a prototypical Steve Fisher player. Polee causes a lot of turnovers and generates points for this Aztec offense. He has been much needed firepower off the bench, and  is continuing to develop and make big shots. Most importantly, Thames and the rest of the team trust him. He will be a good addition to the starting lineup in 2014-15.

SDSU Probably Won’t Be a #1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament

There has been much talk about the top 4 seeds in the tournament this year. Although SDSU sat ranked #5 before the Wyoming loss, they still had potential to be a #1 seed with only the one loss. The loss in Wyoming pretty much seals SDSU’s fate. Or does it?

There is still a lot of basketball to be played. Arizona already lost again last night and Syracuse had a scare earlier this week. Wichita State’s schedule is ridiculously easy (they haven’t played a ranked opponent all season), but without a loss they should expect to hold onto a #1 seed. #3 Florida also plays #14 Kentucky this week and could easily lose that game as well.

First and foremost, the Aztecs need to keep on winning. They still have two games against New Mexico who was ranked earlier in the season and are currently projected to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. There is the possibility they will have to play New Mexico a third time in the MWC Tournament, as well as playing Boise State and Wyoming again — who both gave the Aztecs troubles. On a majority of websites, SDSU sits at a #2 seed, with a few saying a #3 seed. Steve Fisher and company needs to make sure he keeps his players focused and try to run the table in the MWC.

Don’t Play Down to Your Opponent

San Diego State has a phenomenal defense which is nationally ranked. Often times this season we have seen the Aztecs play down to their opponents. It as if they aren’t playing with as much energy or urgency. Perhaps it is because they assume they are just going to win the game anyways. Well that mentality finally caught up to SDSU in Wyoming.

It seemed as if the Aztecs had control for the first quarter of the game. It also seemed as if they could run away with the game after taking a little lead. Then they allowed the Cowboys get back into it. They got slow and lazy on defense and gave up a lot of points they should not have. After Wyoming tied the game at 22-22 with 4:23 to go in the first half, the Cowboys did not look back. SDSU trailed by 9 at the half and never took the lead again. The Aztecs need to take a deep breath and come to play every game to win.

SDSU Falls to Wyoming, So Might Their Ranking

San Diego State looked to have a repeat of the 14-pt come from behind win in Boise State when they went down by 16 to the Cowboys in Wyoming.

This game was a little different. The Aztecs looked very slow on defense and were just not getting back to the ball. They were getting sliced through and Wyoming was converting open look dunks back-to-back. Maybe the Aztecs were winded — being over 7,000 feet above sea level after being at the marker in San Diego. SDSU held a lead through the opening portion of the first half, but then fell apart. It looked as if they were playing lazy, assuming they were going to be right back in it. Before we knew it, the Aztecs saw themselves down 9 at halftime.

Wyoming also played terrific defense. They played this zone scheme which truly worked against the Aztecs. San Diego State’s true strength is on defense, and their offense looked easily tolerable with the way the Cowboys were playing defense. Perhaps the key to the game was Xavier Thames. SDSU has relied heavily on Thames this season, and he has delivered.

It was a little different in Wyoming. Thames was hitting his free throws early but was not finishing and could not shoot. Thames went into the half with zero converted field goals and finished the game 3/16 with 13 points. This was Thame’s lowest point total since SDSU routed upstart St. Katherine 118-35 when he scored 10 points and did not play the majority of the game. That was a span of 12 games in which Xavier averaged over 20 points.

SDSU managed to climb back into the game, getting within 4 points with less than a minute to go. Another heads up play by Wyoming put them back up by 6 almost immediately and pretty much secured the game. The Aztecs could just not seem to put a full run together without letting Wyoming continue to get on the score board. 

Hopefully SDSU learns from this and comes to play for all their opponents. This is a late season game here in Mid-February, so I do not think we should be too down on this as fans. SDSU will probably drop out of the Top-5, but still should get a 2-3 seed in the tournament. They need to focus on the rest of the season as they still have two games verse New Mexico and have to play the MWC Tournament.

SDSU Gets Gritty Comeback Win at Boise St.

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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.

San Diego State Basketball #5

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National recognition and respect is being earned by the San Diego State Men’s Basketball team.

The Aztecs now sit at 18-1, with 17 straight wins and a 7-0 conference record. We have already talked about their numbers; they have statistically one of the best defenses in the entire country. The Associated Press and Coaches Poll keep bumping up the Aztec’s ranking as the season goes on and the wins continue.

That is what Steve Fisher said early on in the season. He knew he had a good team. Back then, when SDSU was not ranked, Steve Fisher seemed worry free. In an interview back in November, Fisher stated his team just needs to keep focused one game at a time and — most importantly — keep winning.

Winning is what the Aztecs have seemed to do. Although playing in some close games, they still have pulled through and found ways to win. What is even more impressive, as most SDSU fans know, their only loss has come to the Number #1 Ranked Arizona Wildcats, who are undefeated.

The Aztecs may stay in the Top 10 the rest of the season. The Mountain West Conference is much weaker this season, so the games here down the stretch are not as enticing to watch. They will be challenged by Boise St. in the upcoming weeks as well as New Mexico twice in the end of the year. As I mentioned in a previous article, SDSU is in position to possibly close out the regular season undefeated, or potentially with only a couple losses.

What is also good for SDSU’s ranking is the teams they have beat. Obviously, we know they have beat 3 ranked teams. Creighton is creeping back in the top 25, now ranked 20. They also beat Villanova last week who was ranked #4 at the time and had a dominant game out of star senior Doug McDermott (39 pts) last night. Kansas just seems to keep winning. They have beat multiple ranked teams since losing to the Aztecs and their top rated defense a few weeks back.

It is an exciting time to be an SDSU Basketball fan. The mindset of this program over the last few years has now come to the expectation to make the tournament. It is now about what we are going to do in the tournament. Steve Fisher and the Aztecs need to keep focused and continue to get better every game. They need to start finishing at the basket better and continuing to dominate on defense. getting a 1-2-3 ranking in our NCAA Regional Bracket would be a huge feat and put us in position to have a smooth run to the Sweet 16, or maybe more.

SDSU Wins Challenging Road Victory in OT at Utah St.

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Although stressing out the fans, SDSU pulled through and prevailed in a tough road victory at Utah St.

Utah State had a fully packed house to host #7 SDSU, and I was honestly impressed with their fans. The Mountain West Conference has plenty of strong home field advantages and Utah State is apart of that. Their fans did an unclasp, yet San Diego-esque taunt of the opposing team when they sung the Aztecs “I Believe” chant. We believe a little more, Utah State.

It was a gritty and tough win, but SDSU prevailed. Good teams seem to win close road games.

The Aztecs were leading by 4 at half time, 28-24, but got beat 33-29 in the second half to force overtime. The game was close the entire second half, and for a period of time late in the second half, the Aggies held onto a 4 point lead. For some reason when I was watching this, it still seemed as though the game was in SDSUs hands. Although not in control, it seemed still controllable.

SDSU pulled ahead in the final minutes to take a 57-54. Xavier Thames missed a late free throw that would have put the game away for good. Spencer Butterfield, on the Aggies, hit a phenomenal three point shot with 2.5 seconds left in the game over two defenders. It was honestly a terrific shot and you have to give all the credit to the kid. Josh Davis and J.J. O’Brien were in his face playing smothering defense and yet he somehow was able to drain the 3.

The Aztecs did not panic. They went on to outscore Utah St. 17-12 in the extra period. Xavier Thames had 10 points in overtime.

For the game, Xavier Thames beasted and was ultra-clutch. He scored 31 points, setting a new career high. Thames really had a complete game as he also managed to haul in 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. He shot 3-6 from 3-pt (10-21 total), including a dagger that seemed to put the game away in overtime. SDSU led 61-60, and Thames drained an extremely deep three that put the Aztecs up 4.

After that, Utah State was pretty much forced to foul. Thames also contributed 8-10 from the Free Throw line, with a handful coming in overtime. This seems to be how the season has gone though. When SDSU has a close lead late, they hold on with the almost-automatic free throw shooting from Thames.

X-FACTor: SDSU Turnover Margin +11

The win was not pretty by any means, but it is a win. Road victories in conference play are hard to come by, so SDSU should not feel disheartened by ‘barely’ beating the Aggies. This win shows America that SDSU will keep fighting to get a win and will excel with the play of Xavier Thames and their swarming defense.

The Numbers Don’t Lie – San Diego State Defense

Only a few months ago, San Diego State Aztecs were unranked and I was demanding respect as fan. Did the Associated Press, Coaches, and even the writers hear my calls? San Diego State University now ranks #7 in the entire country.

Steve Fisher and the Aztecs have earned this national ranking. It was not just because we demanded respect, but we showed the country we could keep winning. Currently the Aztecs are 17-1, with their only loss coming to the #1 Ranked Arizona Wildcats. The Mountain West conference is no where near as strong as it was last year (1st in RPI in 2012-13 to 10th in RPI 2013-14), and SDSU really only has Boise St. as a challenger. The Aztecs could run the table or come out with only a couple losses in conference play.

San Diego State’s defense is what makes it a dominant force. Steve Fisher has instilled stellar defensive play in his players over his tenure as the Aztec’s head coach.

Lets go by the numbers:

It all starts with rebounds. San Diego State ranks 13th in the country for rebounds per game. In college basketball rebounds can be the direct difference in a game. The Aztecs feature Josh Davis at center who boasts 11.6 rebounds per game which is ranked 3rd in the entire country. SDSU also ranks within the top 25 for offensive rebounds per game which is primarily due to the play of Josh Davis. San Diego St. is a team that lives and dies off of the defensive play, and needs easy points.

Let’s take a look at a little more defensive stats. Last week San Diego State led the country in Opponent FG%. After the last week of play, SDSU has dropped but still ranks #3 in the country with a 37.1% from the field. Last week SDSU also ranked in the top 5 for Opponent 3-point FG%, but now have taken a drastic drop to #20. Still an excellent ranking which justified their defensive prowess.

Another stat that has dropped over the last week, but is still excellent, is Opponent’s Points Per Game. SDSU was top-3 but now sits at #5 with an Opponent PPG at 57.6. They get after the ball and shut teams down. Obviously, Opponent FG% and PPG are correlated.

One of the most revealing stats is Team Defensive Efficiency. This stat is calculated by using the formula [field goals attempted – offensive rebounds + turnovers + (0.4 x free throws attempted) = total number of possessions for the season to calculate total team possessions]. This stat pretty much simplifies the combination of statistics that represent a teams defensive efficiency and production. SDSU currently ranks #3 in the country. Aztecs are actually ranked #1 in the country at home in this statistic which is easy to believe at Viejas Arena.

SDSU also features Skylar Spencer at the Power Forward position. Spencer is a blocking animal. He averages 2.53 blocks per game, which is tied for 39th in the country. Last year, he set a Mountain West Conference freshman record for blocks in a season. His talents were highlighted in the game at Allen Fieldhouse verse Kansas where Spencer had 6 blocks. He is still only a sophomore and has a ton of room for growth over the next 2 years.

Many of the east coast bias still does not give SDSU enough respect or credit. Kansas fans swear that their loss to SDSU was a fluke. They swear it was the worst game of the season for them. No fluke, Kansas fans. It was because SDSU is an elite defense. It is because they attack the rim, get after the ball, and play aggressive team defense.