SDSU scouting report vs CSU Fullerton

Miles Heide soars for a dunk against Cal State San Marcos. (Don De Mars/EVT)

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SDSU vs CSU Fullerton in 2022 as the National Anthem plays. (Don De Mars/EVT)

San Diego State opens up its 2023-2024 schedule against the Titans of California State University, Fullerton, for the second year in a row. Last season, the Aztecs defeated the Titans 80-57 behind 18 points on 6-7 shooting from Darrion Trammell.

On Monday, SDSU will seek its 11th straight opening night victory and 18th win in the past 19 seasons. The Aztecs’ last first-game defeat occurred on an aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay. They lost to No.9 Syracuse 62-49 in 2012.  

Keep in mind scouting reports are always tricky this early in the season.

General Observations

Fullerton finished last season 124th in KenPom. They are 174th this preseason. The Titans recorded 20 wins last year and finished one win shy of making the NCAA Tournament. Last year, they were the best defensive team in the Big West. Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor usually likes to play fast but has really slowed down their tempo for the past two seasons.

Defending Fullerton

Fullerton came out last year with some pretty basic concepts and not many set plays, which isn’t surprising for the first game. Partially due to SDSU pressure and partially due to simply playing slower, they often took 10-15 seconds before even starting to run an action. 

The most common action they’d run was a dribble weave that flowed into a ball screen toward the top of the key. To defend that, everyone needs to know their assignment and communicate. In the clip below, the defense breaks down because Arop goes to help while his player is in motion, and it leaves his man wide open on the cut.

The other thing they showed a couple of times was a stagger screen where one screener would pop behind the 3-point line, and the other would roll to the basket. They had a few different variations of the same set, but those were their main tactics. For stagger screens, SDSU defenders will need to recognize it and react appropriately. 

Some teams respond to the stagger screen by having defenders stay with their man regardless of the offense’s movement. Others choose to assign responsibilities to their players where they switch men based on what part of the court the offensive player moves toward. The Aztecs usually simply guard their man. The players guarding the screeners also need to either push into their screener or move away to leave space for the defender guarding the ball handler to run through.

Fullerton played pretty simple in the post, as well. Post entries came from the wing, and the passer would always cut to either the weakside block or the weakside corner (shown below.) Usually, there was also an accompanying screen away from the ball to try and get a shooter open, often either a pin-in or a flare screen. 

To defend the post-ups, the primary defender will need good fundamentals. Stay straight up, don’t jump at pump fakes, etc. The Aztecs often like to double the post; you can see Butler approaching for the double team. That shouldn’t be necessary for the win, but look for the Aztecs to “dig” the post, meaning the double comes from the closest perimeter player.

Fullerton will try to counter the dig coverage by having a shooter enter the ball to the post, so the Aztecs will need to make timely rotations in order to avoid getting burned. 

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Attacking Fullerton

Fullerton’s roster has a lot of wing-size players but no true bigs. Think Nevada under coach Eric Musselman. Most of their rotation is between 6’4 and 6’7. So they don’t play big, but they’re very mobile.

Their basic man-to-man defense involves going over all screens and playing a high drop coverage (shown below). Curling around screens tightly will be important to try and gain that separation as the defenders go over. Going over screens can often leave basket cuts undefended as well, so the players will need to choose their spots.

For the ball handler, the drop invites long 2s and 3-pointers off the dribble (as shown above.) Those are generally less efficient shots. The key will be not settling for those shots. The pick-and-roll has a lot of options out of it. The ball handler can hit the roll man, or a cutter, or a shooter, or blow by the dropped defender. If none of those options are available, then take the pull-up, but it should never be the first choice.

Fullerton’s size also allows them to switch a lot of ball screens. They execute three switches on the possession below. The Aztecs typically don’t have many ways to attack switches other than looking for mismatches. If Fullerton commits to switching more, it could be problematic. The expected counter would be to run Delay sets and get LeDee matched up against a guard down in the post.

Max Jones- 12.5 pts, 4 rebs, 2.2 ast. 

Finished second on the team in minutes last season and once again figured to play a prominent role for the Titans. He is a versatile player who can finish at the rim as well as behind the arc and excels at drawing contact and hitting free throws. He had 26 points on 10-15 shooting in Fullerton’s exhibition victory Saturday night over Life Pacific University. 

Jaedon LeDee against Vincent Lee in 2022. The matchup figures to be among the keys for Monday’s contest. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Vincent Lee– 7.4 pts, 4.7 rebs, 0.6 asts

Lee had one of his best games against SDSU last season with 11 points and 5 rebounds. He’s a little undersized at the center spot, but he knows how to help a team win. He initially enrolled at Nevada under Musselman but never played before transferring to Fullerton. Lee has started 61 of the last 64 games for the Titans. He is in his second senior season for the program. 

Tory San Antonio – 7.8 pts, 4.7 rebs, 1.4 asts

Last year, the Big West named the 6-foot-3 San Antonio its Defensive Player of the Year. He returned to Fullerton for a second senior season. He started every game a year ago, and 74 of the Titans last 81 contests. There are few players who could challenge Lamont Butler as the top defensive guard on the West Coast; San Antonio is one of them.  

X-factor– Size

The Aztecs have a clear size advantage against the smaller Titans. They should use it to their advantage and pound the ball inside. In both of the preseason scrimmages, the Aztecs came out hoping to light up the scoreboard from deep, and it resulted in slow starts. They turned the game around against the Cougars when they started driving the ball and drawing fouls. That should be the focus of this game.

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