Aztecs look to avenge loss to Colorado State

Viejas Arena at tip-off for the season opener against Fullerton. (Paul Garrison/EVT)

Viejas Arena during a “Whiteout” against Wyoming. (Don De Mars/EVT)

SDSU lost to Colorado State 79-71 in Fort Collins on January 30th. On Tuesday, the Rams travel to Viejas Arena for the second leg in the home-and-home series.

Prior to the first meeting, EVT published a preview of how the two teams match up. That article is still relevant for this game and can be found here

Since the two squads have already played, rehashing much of the same information is not ideal. Instead, this article will focus on what went well for the Aztecs in the first matchup and what adjustments can be expected from both teams.

What worked well

The Aztecs shot the ball well against Colorado State. Reese Waters led the charge, scoring 17 points on only nine shots. He was able to take advantage of the Rams’ strategy of packing the paint and going under screens to encourage jump shots.

Waters was by no means the only player, as the team had an effective field goal percentage of 53.3%, higher than the national average is 50.4%. The Aztecs will look to continue to hit shots at a high clip in the rematch. 

Contributing to the good shooting effort was solid ball movement (after about ten minutes.) The Aztecs got a higher assist percentage that game than they usually do, which meant guys were passing to open shooters more than usual. 

Expected Colorado State adjustments

It is tempting to not make any adjustments after a win and to be fair, the Rams likely don’t need to make many. They varied their defenses well. Whether it was a switching defense, drop coverage, or a “weak” coverage, they did a solid job of keeping Aztec players out of rhythm, as evidenced by the 15 turnovers they forced. 

The job for the Colorado State coaches will be to try and predict what adjustments the Aztecs will make and try to pre-adjust to counter those. 

One small adjustment might be having Nique Clifford guard Reese Waters more often. 

Another small adjustment will be focusing on boxing out more and controlling the defensive glass. They gave up twelve offensive rebounds last game, and they will try not to let that happen again. 

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Expected SDSU adjustments

As the losing team after the first game, it is tempting to think SDSU needs to make a lot of adjustments. Schematically, though, the game plan was solid. The issue was never the X’s and O’s, it was the execution. 

Head coach Brian Dutcher was so upset at the lack of execution during the game that he broke a clipboard and lit into his team. 

Colorado State got off to a hot start, leading 21-7 after ten minutes. When asked why he didn’t take a timeout early to stop the run, Coach Dutcher said, “Why am I going to take a timeout to tell you what I’ve already told you? You know what it is. This is exactly what I told you, what’s going to happen if you didn’t do what I asked, and it’s happened.” 

Offensively, the big disappointment was the high number of turnovers. Multiple times, Aztec players would drive to help defenders and get the ball stripped. Proper spacing, making the right reads, and setting better screens are all things that can be improved on to help cut down on turnovers.

The Aztecs took the lead toward the end of the game and then had back-to-back turnovers that resulted in a run for the Rams. Cutting down on miscues would help the Aztecs score more as well as prevent easy points. 

Another aspect that can be improved is better shot selection. It improved during the course of the game, but at times, players settled for bad shots rather than continuing to move the ball around. It usually resulted in a miss. 

That play is designed to get LeDee a touch in the post, and instead, Parrish free-lanced and took a tough shot rather than move the ball. 

Defensively, players need to understand their assignments and not lose track of their man. It happened many times last game and resulted in numerous open shots. In the clip below, Saunders got back cut, which led to other Aztecs attempting to cover for his mistake. They had to leave their responsibilities to do so, and the Rams sank an open three as a result. 

Lapses like that also lead to a lot of late fouls on shot attempts, partially explaining the free-throw discrepancy in the first game.  

X-Factor

Intensity. The Aztecs came out in the first game very lackadaisical as if they expected the Rams to roll over and give up. The Aztecs almost came back and won despite the slow start and multiple double-digit deficits. If they play with greater intensity and execution for the full forty minutes, they should be able to win. 

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