Matt Bradley and Trey Pulliam are as good as advertised
SDSU men’s basketball has a lot of intriguing pieces, but if they are going to once again be one of the top 20 programs in the country, they need Pulliam and Bradley to be stars. On opening night, they were just that. Most of the evening, the Aztecs’ offense was stagnant but was best when the dynamic duo played downhill and hunted their shot. Bradley, a transfer, who judging by UCSD’s upset of his former school, jumped ship at the right time, was terrific on the offensive end. He was an efficient 8-13 from the field and 7-9 from the line. Most impressively, he poured 23 points without making (or officially attempting) a three on the night.
“Matt Bradley is a gifted offensive player,” SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher said postgame. “As much as the defense does a good job on him, he’s capable of bouncing up and making a shot at any time. He falls away. He elevates over the defenders. He is a very gifted offensive player. We have to continue to put him in space where he can be effective. As he gets more comfortable in the offense, I think he will be even more dangerous than he was tonight.”
Just as importantly, Pulliam provided a second scorer. UC Riverside played SDSU’s point guard, similar to how BYU guarded the Aztecs last season. They sank their immobile big into the paint and dared Pulliam to shoot, which he did with confidence and effectiveness. Adding more hope for Aztec nation, the duo has not reached their ceiling yet.
“The coaches brought [Matt] here to score the ball and put the ball in the hole,” Pulliam said postgame. “I’ve definitely been working on and being more aggressive and finding my spots. We’ve been playing good with each other. I like playing with him, and I know he likes playing with me. We have good conversations on and off the court, so our chemistry is getting there.”
Defense is king at SDSU
If you love the way the Aztecs football team has risen to number 22 in the latest college football playoff standings, you will enjoy the basketball season. After putting up 40 in the first half, aided by a large number of free throw attempts, SDSU’s offense put up a pedestrian 26 in the second half. SDSU shot 29 free throws. Over the past five seasons, the Aztecs have had more attempts from the foul line in only 15 games. If SDSU struggles to score, getting to the line could be a crucial way to manufacture points.
Fortunately, Brian Dutcher can send out wave after wave of dedicated and skillful defenders. The Aztecs defense suffocated the Highlanders holding them to 53 points. It was UCR’s lowest point total since they scored 49 against Hawaii on February 29, 2020.
“Obviously, it’s a very good Riverside team, and we knew this would be a test,” Dutcher said postgame. “We prepared hard for it. They were good, but our defense over the years has been good, and it was good again tonight.”
No need to overreact
At the beginning of each college basketball season, fans accustomed to the importance of every game in college football put too much emphasis on the team’s first couple of games. Basketball is a long season, which allows more for experimentation and improvement as the season goes on. While playing in the Mountain West means SDSU’s non-conference schedule is crucial to their NCAA resume, it would be wise to wait a few weeks before drawing too many conclusions on players’ strengths, the positions they should play, or the rotation.
Still, overreactions can be fun. Here are some horrible takes following only one game:
– Joshua Tomaic is far more effective in the post than on the wing.
– Chad Baker-Mazara should be inserted immediately into the starting lineup.
– Brian Dutcher should shrink the rotation to seven, leaving Tahirou Diabate, Keith Dinwiddie, and Keshad Johnson on the bench.
– The Aztecs will be a .500 team because they depend too much on mid-range jumpers.
– Why did the school build the JAM center, and no one can shoot three-pointers?
– Lamont Butler still cannot finish at the rim! What was he doing all offseason?
– Nathan Mensah is too passive on offense.
– Adam Seiko left his offensive game at Afrobasket.
– The Aztecs play selfish basketball. They only had seven assists on the evening.
“I felt pretty good,” Bradley said postgame. “From the jump, I was able to be really composed. I didn’t have any pregame nerves. I felt like I got that out the way in the exhibition. I felt like I was in pretty good shape. I’m learning how to treat my body in my fourth year, and I believe that it is just going to just get even better from here.”