Three Keys for SDSU to defeat Colorado State

Credit: Paul Garrison/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

After the thirty-point win against Colorado State on Jan 8, Coach Brian Dutcher knew that this would not be the same Rams team in the future matchups. “It’s one of a series,” Dutcher said. “We’re not going to get too high or too low. In no way, shape, or form do I think I’m going to have that kind of game the next time I see them.”

The Rams bounced back with a one-point win against the SDSU Aztecs a month later. However, with ten minutes to play, they led by as many as 20 points.

“We know we have to lock in, play better offensively than we did tonight,” Matt Bradley said after the Fresno State win. “Defensively, we bring it every game.”

All of the Aztec assistant coaches watched the first 35 minutes of the Colorado State vs. Utah State game, with the game within a possession, they would not be able to even think of preparation until after the game against the Bulldogs. However, coach JD Pollock stayed the entire game.

Pollock is the rebounding coach on this Aztec team. He missed only one game all season, and it was on the road to the Aggies where SDSU had zero offensive rebounds. In the Rams vs. Aggies game tonight, he saw how much the Aggies dominated the Rams on the glass. They won the rebounding battle by seven and had 11 offensive rebounds, which almost led USU to a victory.

  1. Find offensive rhythm

The Aztecs are thankful that they do not have to face the Bulldogs again. It seemed that Fresno State knew the Aztec offensive game better than SDSU did. SDSU was struggling to run any sort of offensive set.

Dutcher said an issue was that Bradley was pressing the ball too much in the first half. But at the same time, he said, “That’s what we want him to do. He’s our go-to player, so he has to press his games at times.”

In the second half, the team stopped pressing only one side of the floor, which was the reason for the 33 point half.

The Aztecs have succeeded against the Rams this season. They have scored over 36 points in three of their four halves against Colorado State.

The Rams rank 17th in offensive efficiency. This is due to their ability to rely on multiple offensive scorers. Kenpom ranks every player in the nation through an offensive rating. The Rams have nine players with an offensive rating of over 100. For comparison, the Aztecs only have four.

Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

Defensively with such a short time to prepare, Dutcher said they will adjust as the game goes on to combat the Rams offense.

The offense may have felt ugly against the Bulldogs, but there were still three players in double figures. The bench battle will be essential in the game. In the Aztecs first dominating win against the Rams, the bench scored 30 points.

  1. Continue to dominate the rebound battle

In both matchups against the Rams this season, the Aztecs dominated the glass. In the first matchup, they created 17 more rebounds. Even in the SDSU loss, they had 12 more rebounds and won the offensive rebound battle 18-6.

Offensive rebounding was a key to the Aztecs coming back in the second half as they had 12 second-chance points to the Rams six.

Colorado State does not crash the glass. They rank 340th in the nation at grabbing offensive rebounds as they capture them on only 21.6% of possessions. However, they are a very good defensive rebounding team as they rank 42nd nationally. If the Aztecs grab extra possessions on offense, it will be a big advantage as the Rams will most likely not match them.

The Rams are one of the smaller teams in the conference. They rank 302nd in average height. Their starting lineup only features one player taller than 6’7. If the Aztecs use bigger lineups, they will certainly have a height advantage.

The only loss that the Aztecs have suffered this season when winning the rebound battle was against Colorado State. SDSU won the rebounding battle by five over Fresno State.

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  1. Make the winning plays late in the game.

This Mountain West tournament has lived up to every expectation. Four straight games went down to the final possession.

In Fresno’s first game, San Jose State dropped a pass which led to the Bulldogs hitting the game-winning free throws. Kenan Blackshear missed a wide-open three to defeat the Broncos, Xavier Dusell of Wyoming hit the go-ahead three-pointer with under thirty seconds to play to beat the Rebels, Isaiah Stevens made the game-winning pass to an open Chandler Jacobs.

Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

The game is never decided from one play, but the teams who excel in these final moments win the game.

In the quarterfinals, the Aztecs made the critical defensive stops. Nathan Mensah hit a basket to stretch the game to two possessions, Chad Baker-Mazara and Matt Bradley hit both of their free throws. They did enough to not give the Bulldogs a chance to win.

The Aztecs gained tremendous late-game experience in their final week of the regular season. They won a close battle against Wyoming and held onto a one-point lead against Fresno State and Nevada.

The team showed they can win both offensively and defensively when the possessions meant the most. Against Wyoming, Trey Pulliam hit two clutch baskets to hold off the Cowboys. The defense showed their elite selves as they defeated the Bulldogs and Wolfpack when they had the ball on the final possession.

Matt Bradley said it best, “Coach says no excuses. Just gotta lock-in and win these games.”

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