Posted on: January 27, 2011 1:49 am
Edited on: January 27, 2011 2:14 am
Posted by Matt Norlander
That's not a basketball game. That's a bloody rock concert. The front man at the edge of the stage, imploring his fans to lose control.
What a photo.
And it's courtesy of Jacksonville Jaguar Kirk Morrison, a San Diego State alumnus who was in Provo Wednesday night to watch his undefeated Aztecs lose that label after Jimmer Fredette exceeded expectations and scored 43 of his team's 71 points.
Incredible how the penultimate team to lose its first game, at the end of January with a No. 4 ranking, ends up being a sidebar. But that's what Jimmer does to a situation: he takes over it. The kid has NBA icons tweeting about his greatness and, well, is pretty much getting the opposite kind of treatment Jay Cutler received in the Twitterverse a few days ago.
Jimmer is not a cult figure anymore. He's as beloved and mainstream on the mainstage as Springsteen.
In a game-time span of about five minutes midway through the second half, the Aztecs went from No. 4 and undefeated alongside Ohio State, to second place in the Mountain West (5-1) behind 6-0 BYU. Like that, they had their undefeated run evaporated, eviscerated and overshadowed by the Cougars' most iconic player of all-time.
Since Parrish will be tackling the circus that has become Jimmermania in his on-site column, allow me to switch to San Diego State, which fell 71-58 and, ya know, is still a very good basketball team.
The Aztecs got a mammoth effort out of Kawhi Leonard, which can't, can't, can't go overlooked. Leonard was said to be battling flu-like symptoms and had an IV hooked up to his arm for a good while before tip-off. The lottery pick finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, nine of those offensive.
But Leonard didn't get much help. The reason was some fine-tuning, defensively, from BYU. Angevine will be along after breakfast to break down why certain things worked for Dave Rose's team. But back to SDSU, which had Malcolm Thomas as the only other player in double digits. He had 10.
Steve Fisher's team lost its legs down the stretch and couldn't keep pace with BYU, a little surprising, considering the Aztecs are the more athletic team, overall (though BYU can push it). Wyoming, Colorado State, TCU and Utah are next up for the Aztecs. We could and should be looking at a situation where, at worst, SDSU will have two losses when it meets BYU again, the rematch coming on CBS Feb. 26.
Perhaps all this Jimmer talk is a good thing for San Diego State. Firstly, it overshadows any overreaction from fans, Twitterites and pundits. In this era, that's a good thing. Additionally, it puts SDSU in an underdog role going forward. Something of a respect card can be played, if you can believe it, because of this loss and all the love BYU has and will continue to get.
As of late, the Aztecs got respect and love as well, but these motivations can get teams through tricky stretches against inferior competition. The loss, we may find out, couldn't have come at a better time for San Diego State: just before the pressure started to increase, and just after everyone had accepted it as the real deal.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
1. Size: This is the first thing that jumps out at a viewer watching an SDSU game. Only three players on the roster are listed below the 200-lb. mark, which means even the guards are packing some muscle. Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White play even taller than they really are (each is under 6-foot-10), which makes the Aztecs nearly unstoppable inside. The SDSU offense takes a massive 60.8 of its shots inside the arc, and they sport a low 4.1 offensive block percentage that makes them tops in the nation at putting the orange roundie in the net.
2. Flow: No doubt, the Aztecs play a slow game with all those big men on the floor. Their offensive pace is 64 possessions per game, well under the national average. But that’s where lack of exposure to a team can fool those of us who value what stats can tell us: watching them live, I saw a team that can run when opportunity knocks or necessity dictates. They’d prefer not to, of course. This team imposes its will by slowing the pace, but it’s not limited to one way of attacking the basket by any means.
3. Cool: This year’s MWC is a house of horrors. Really. The Aztecs just beat a tough, Lon Kruger-coached UNLV team, but they can’t look forward and start gameplanning for BYU and the Jimmer Show because they have to go to New Mexico and face the likes of Dairise Gary, Drew Gordon and Emannuel Negedu -- not to mention a couple of tough young guards in Phillip McDonald and Kendall Williams -- in the Pit first. This league’s top four is better than anything the Pac-10 has to offer right now (possibly because so many current MWC stars transferred from Pac-10 schools, but still). Despite all that, these guys never appear to panic. They bring the lunchpail every night.
4. ABC: I don’t mean alphabet soup, the Jackson Five or a rival television network. I mean Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. You may have heard that ace reliever Trevor Hoffman retired this week and joined the front office of the San Diego Padres. In an inspired move, the public address crew at Viejas Arena broke out Hoffman’s entrance music -- AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells -- when the going got tough late in last night’s game. The Aztecs responded and put the clamps on to seal a 55-49 win. SDSU will play a lot of low-scoring games, so they’ll need that closer’s mentality to stay unbeaten.
5. Fish: Steve Fisher might look and sound like your kindly old grampa, but don’t you fall for that act. You’re looking at a guy who played in the DII Final Four with the Illinois State Redbirds, and won a DI national championship in his tumultuous first few weeks of head coaching experience at Michigan. He recruited the Fab Five and went back to the tourney’s final day two more times. The fact that he got fired amid scandal from that recruitment doesn’t change the fact that he’s been to the mountaintop and knows how to coach. Opponents might have been caught napping on his skills last season, but this year his imprint can be seen in every aspect of the top-ten ranking this team has earned and held.
If I had the wherewithal to be in the Pit on Saturday, or BYU’s Marriott Center on January 26, no bias on earth would stop me from watching this team go to the mattresses.