Three Keys to an Aztec victory over San Jose State

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Credit: San Jose State Athletics

1. Keep bouncing back

“Feel bad tonight, but not tomorrow,” remarked Brian Dutcher on how he coaches San Diego State after a loss to media on Thursday. “[We must] solely focus on the next team at hand.”

SDSU remains a tough beat atop Montezuma Mesa in conference play, where they have not succumbed to defeat in back-to-back matches this season. The Aztecs remain dominant at home after a defeat with 20 consecutive wins. Victories over UNLV, New Mexico, and Nevada prevented them from entering multiple two-game slides.

A key component to bouncing back is the guard who could have sealed it for SDSU against Boise State.

“If Matt Bradley is more mad about missing [free throws] than I was, then he will make a lot more,” said Dutcher.

After shouldering the blow in Boise, Matt Bradley is likely to take his frustration out on the court. In their league contests following a loss, Bradley has dropped an average of 22.3 points per game, giving the Aztecs an average margin of victory of 17.3 points.

In the previous iteration of Aztecs-Spartans, Chad Baker-Mazara provided a modest eight points but has since been an x-factor offensively, averaging 10.5 points per game. If you match Baker-Mazara’s emerging performance with Nathan Mensah, who recorded his first double-double this season against Boise State, the supporting cast behind Bradley is primed to right the ship.

Credit: San Jose State Athletics

The home team cannot afford collapses to bad teams as they are the only March Madness hopeful from the Mountain West without a loss in either Quad 3 or Quad 4. With bracketologists pinning San Diego State on the bubble, they cannot lose to Quad 4 San Jose State. They need to come out strong with Matt Bradley taking the lead.

2. Cut the Spartans off at the perimeter

In the time between meetings, Tim Miles’ San Jose State Spartans (8-19, 1-14 MW) lost three games but notched their first Mountain West win. Their 71-55 upset victory over New Mexico was backed by a strong second-half where they outscored the Lobos 46-30 while shooting 74.1 percent from the field and going 6-for-10 from three.

As Dutcher pointed out on Thursday, “every game in the conference is really hard [and] we have to win tomorrow against San Jose [State].”

The Spartans still lead the league with three-pointers made with an average of 9.3 per game. The last time the in-state rivals met in San Jose, freshmen standout Myron Amey Jr. made 3-of-6 on his perimeter shots and ended with 23 points. However, Amey Jr. did not suit up against New Mexico, and unclear if he will suit up tomorrow evening. In his absence, junior Omari Moore notched a rare triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Moore provided the veteran leadership Miles’ seeks in his young roster.

Whether the freshman suits up or if the veteran carries SJSU, the Aztecs have to remain vigilant on the three-ball. Despite winning by 10 in their previous matchup, Dutcher’s squad allowed the Spartans to cut the lead to six points late in the second half. San Diego State defenders must chase and contest perimeter shooters to keep their opponents from contending.

3. How Keshad Johnson returns to form

Transition dunks were not flying in Boise.

Keshad Johnson scored a modest five points, including a rare three-point make, due to Boise State’s length disrupting his rhythm. The five-point total snapped a three-game streak of scoring in double-digits. The junior forward should be looking forward to play in the confines of home, where he averages 7.9 points per game versus his away average of seven points per game.

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In front of an eager crowd, acrobatic dunks from the Oakland, CA native would benefit the team in dire need of more transition offense. Against Boise State, San Diego State had zero fast-break points compared to the Broncos’ 10. In their previous conquest against San Jose State, Johnson and company had 13 fast break points to San Jose State’s six.

Throughout the season, Dutcher has emphasized manufacturing enough points to win, and windmill dunks have to be a part of the strategy in creating offense off of stingy defense. Tomorrow evening, the Aztecs have to force turnovers and allow easy dunks to take the pressure off Bradley producing in the half-court offense. The league’s best defending team must find a way to shorten opposing possessions and get the ball in the hands of their transition playmaker.

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