The Aztecs head to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State on Friday night.
SDSU will look to build off of the 72-47 win over New Mexico the last time they took the floor. The Rams started 16-1 (the lone loss to the Aztecs) but have dropped back-to-back games. CSU is hoping to get their season back on track Friday night.
1. Don’t Let the Altitude Beat You
While not quite a mile off the ground, Fort Collins is over 5000 feet above sea level, which is always a challenge for the Aztecs. The Aztecs have tried various strategies, including drinking beet juice in the days prior to the game in order to improve their ability to function when there is less oxygen. In SDSU’s first meeting with Colorado State, they won by 30 points, holding the Rams to just 49 points and just 17 in the second half. Colorado State has scored at least 66 points in every single other game they have played this year. Playing on the road, SDSU is likely going to need to find a way to keep up on the offensive end, something that they have struggled with this season. The Rams fans bring a raucous atmosphere, and that will be a challenge for the Aztecs to handle.
The back-to-back losses by the Rams has allowed Boise State and Wyoming to break away at the top of the Mountain West. This game is a must-win for both the Aztecs and the Rams if they are going to challenge for the Mountain West regular-season title.
“They’re going to be desperate, and we have to play desperate too,” Head Coach Brian Dutcher said at his weekly press conference. “It’s a big conference game on the road, and we have to answer that challenge.”
The Aztecs have struggled on the road this season. They are 4-4 away from Steve Fisher Court compared to 8-1 in the friendly confines of Viejas Arena.
“We are going to see what we are able to do in a hostile environment, and I like our team, I like our toughness, so I think we are ready for that challenge, but it will be the ultimate challenge,” Dutcher added.
2. Let Bradley Beat Roddy
At the end of the game, it often comes down to a team’s best players making plays. For the Aztecs, graduate transfer Matt Bradley is that guy. He averages 16 points a game, while no other Aztec scores more than 9.3. He plays more minutes per game than anyone else on the team, and he has had huge games when the Aztecs needed. He scored 27 on 10-11 shooting against UNLV, and he dominated the Rams in their first matchup, putting up 26 points with four three-pointers as he led the way in the rout.
On the other side of the court, Colorado State junior David Roddy is their superstar. He averages 18.6 points per game and has already scored 30 twice this season. He has put up 20 points in seven different games. He is also a force on the glass, as he takes down 7.7 boards per game.
“He’s like a tight end playing basketball,” Dutcher said. “He’s strong, and he’s physical…he’s a potential MVP of this conference.”
In the first matchup of the season, he took just nine shots, the third-fewest he has attempted in a game this season, making just four. He also turned the ball over five times, a season-high. Improbably, he still scored 17 points because he made 8-10 attempts from the free-throw line. If the Aztecs can limit his production, they will win, especially if Bradley can have a big game.
3. Run an Offensive Clinic
The Aztecs’ offense has been inconsistent at best this season. They put up 80 on UNLV, 79 on Colorado State, and 73 on Georgetown, while also scoring up paltry performances, such as when they scored just 57 against Utah State, 43 against USC, and the cherry on top, 37 against Boise State. However, last time out, the Aztecs did put together a strong offensive performance. They scored 72 against New Mexico, made 44.8% of their shots, and turned the ball over only 12 times. They also combined for 19 assists, which was the most they produced in conference play and the second-highest total of the season.
A key to SDSU’s offensive performance against the Lobos, according to Dutcher, was the Aztecs’ success in the fast break. He pointed out that it is easier to score in the fast break than it is in the half-court offense. In the first matchup between the Aztecs and Rams, the two teams combined for 46 free throws, which is something that SDSU has struggled with this season. The game may come down to a free throw contest in the final seconds, and that is something the Aztecs need to prepare for.
SDSU defense is uber-successful. The stops will come. If they are going to walk out of Fort Collins with a win, they will need to score enough points offensively to beat a high-powered Rams team.