It wasn’t a good week to be Fresno State or Utah State, which had dates at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena, where the Aztecs had not lost in 25 and then 26 games — and came at a time when the Aztecs had to be kicking themselves a bit after booting a separator-type game in the Mountain West race at Colorado State.
Down one with 4-plus minutes to play, San Diego State missed shots, missed free throws and didn’t get stops. That last one had to sting a bit, as the Aztecs are leading the conference in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense, 3-point field-goal percentage defense and turnovers forced. But Colorado State hit 46.3% of its shots, turned over the ball only five times and beat the Aztecs down the stretch.
The Bulldogs and Aggies couldn’t capitalize and didn’t have much chance, losing 58-47 and 62-42.
Fresno State made some unforced errors, but the Bulldogs also didn’t shoot well (36.5%) and were beaten on the boards. But Utah State was fairly well dismantled by the Aztecs’ length and athleticism, and the Aggies have been a more efficient offensive team than the Bulldogs.
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Utah State hit only 29.2% of its shots while committing 19 turnovers, its worst marks of the season. In the first half the Aggies had 32 possessions and scored on just six of them, a total of 14 points. And the numbers four, three and eight didn’t look good no matter where the decimal point landed.
Utah State points per possession: .438.
Utah State turnover percentage: 43.8.
A few ticks more than 28 minutes into the game the Aggies still had all of 16 points, stuck there from the 18:54 mark until there was 11:46 remaining in the game.
“This is as good of a defense as we’ve had since we’ve been here,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “(Saturday) was a classic example. Utah State has been playing some terrific basketball. They had won four out of five. Their only loss was an overtime game when they led by five, shooting two free throws with 50 seconds to go. They are a hard team to guard, and we guarded them effectively.”
And at the midway point of Mountain West play, the Aztecs have a defensive efficiency rating in conference games of 85.5, which is the best by plenty going back through 2002 in the Ken Pom rankings.
The top five:
San Diego State, 2015
Brigham Young, 2008
New Mexico, 2012
Brigham Young, 2010
San Diego State, 2011
That will come as no surprise to the Aggies.
“They’re 6-6, 6-7 and 6-8 with (Winston) Shepard, an NBA-sized defense. The scout team does their best in practice, but it is a little different when you’re out here,” guard Trace Cureton said.
And coach Stew Morrill: “That’s a really good defensive basketball team. They make it hard for you to get much. They just kind of built a lead possession by possession. We couldn’t score. It was 14-13 and we had a couple of chances to score, but didn’t. ...
“I don’t think there will be anybody in the Mountain West that will win here (Viejas Arena). I don’t. The best thing we can do is flush it and move on. It doesn’t matter if you lose by two or by 20. You lose. They’re a really good team.”
Over its 27-game home winning streak, San Diego State opponents have hit just 34.3% of their shots (494 of 1,440), including 24.4% on 3-pointers (120 of 491).
Rebounds tough to find for ’Dogs at Colorado State
The Bulldogs ended a rough week with a 23-point loss at Colorado State, getting pounded on the boards.
On the stat sheet, they had five offensive rebounds, which at the same time is right and a bit wrong. But there is no question how much difficulty they had against the Rams trying to finish possessions at one end of the floor and extend them at the other.
The Bulldogs did not have an off-the-rim offensive rebound in the first 34 minutes, though they were credited with team rebounds at the 8:38 mark in the first half when Karachi Edo had a ball stripped on his way to the basket and go out of bounds, and at the 17:50 mark in the second half when the ball got wedged between the rim and backboard with possession on the dead ball pointing in their direction.
The first offensive rebound credited to a player came with 5:15 to go when Terrell Carter II put up a shot right of the lane that was blocked by Tiel Daniels and tracked down by Edo on the other side of the rim.
Carter a minute-plus later rebounded a missed jump shot by Cezar Guerrero, missed his follow and grabbed a second offensive rebound only to miss the putback under pressure.
The Bulldogs’ second-chance points in the game: 1.
The Rams have allowed 10 or fewer second-chance points in six of their nine conference games.
The one by Fresno State is the low.
Colorado State allowed 10 in a win against Boise State in the conference opener, eight in a loss at New Mexico, four in victories against Wyoming and at Air Force, and two in a win at San Jose State.
Nevada still struggling with shots
It’s no secret that Nevada has had difficulty shooting, but this still is surprising: The Wolf Pack hit 42% of their shots in a 63-55 loss at Wyoming and that was the third-best shooting game they have had this season against Division I opposition.
In 16 of their 19 games, the Wolf Pack have been between the 41.4% they hit in a loss to Fresno State at Lawlor Events Center and the 30.5% they made in a loss to the Bulldogs at Save Mart Center.
Nevada and San Jose State are the only teams in the conference that have not hit 50% or better of their shots in at least one game this season.
Getting in a big hole — quickly
San Jose State obviously has a few problems at the moment, playing with six scholarship players and two non-scholarship walk-ons. But while the Spartans had managed to stay in most of its conference games at least through the first half, that was not the case at New Mexico.
Ten minutes in, San Jose State had missed 12 of 14 shots and turned it over four times. The Spartans trailed 21-4 — and only one team has trailed by that much that fast in a MW game this season.
The bottom five, plus one:
Nevada trailed at Colorado State 25-5
San Jose State trailed at New Mexico 21-4
San Diego State trailed at Colorado State 27-10
San Diego State trailed at Fresno State 19-5
Air Force trailed at Nevada 16-5
San Jose State trailed 16-5 vs. Colorado State 16-5.
UNLV turnaround an illusion?
UNLV has won three games in a row to get to 4-5 in Mountain West play, but those victories might not produce much of a turnaround.
The Rebels were gifted an overtime win against Utah State when the Aggies inexplicably fouled when UNLV grabbed a defensive rebound 90-plus feet from the basket with the score tied and just 2.4 seconds remaining. And the Rebels’ past two victories have come at Nevada and against Air Force, which are a combined 4-12 in conference play.
Wyoming keeps winning — and getting to the line and hitting ’em
Wyoming got to 7-2 in conference play with a victory over Nevada, outrebounding the top rebounding team in the conference to remain tied with San Diego State atop the Mountain West.
The Cowboys were a plus-10 in rebounding margin (34-24), the 24 rebounds a season low for the Wolf Pack and the nine offensive rebounds tying a season-low.
But the thing that really sticks out with Wyoming this season — free throws.
In six of the Cowboys’ seven league victories they have made more free throws than their opponents have attempted and it hasn’t mattered if they are at home or on the road.
Wyoming made 15 of 19 free throws, the Rebels attempted 12
•A San Jose State:
Wyoming made 23 of 30 free throws, the Spartans attempted six
Wyoming made 14 of 16 free throws, the Broncos attempted nine
•At Fresno State:
Wyoming made 15 of 26 free throws, the Bulldogs attempted 14
Wyoming made 19 of 22 free throws, the Lobos attempted 10
yoming made 21 of 26 free throws, the Wolf Pack attempted 14
The Cowboys last season ranked eighth of 11 in the Mountain West in free-throw attempts in conference play and overall, and they were a plus-30 in league games — partly thanks to the 37 they took in the second half of a six-point victory over Fresno State at Arena Auditorium.
But at the midway point of the conference season, Wyoming already is a plus-61 in free-throw attempts, taking 183 to 122 for their nine opponents.
And it hasn’t hurt that the Cowboys are the top free-throw shooting team in conference games in knocking down 76% and rank second in all games at 72.6%.