The mix of size and athleticism in the Aztecs starting line-up proved to be a big problem early on for the young Spartans. In the first half, San Diego State was able to get into the paint at will. Paced by Josh Davis, the Aztecs pulled down 27 first half rebounds, 11 of which were on the offensive end. Additionally, they jumped out to a huge advantage from the charity stripe, putting up 17 attempts to the Spartans nine.
Despite foul troubles and poor shooting (20.7 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from the line), the home squad found themselves down by only ten at the half. Coming out of the locker room, the Spartans were on a comeback mission. Freshman guard Jalen James hit back-to-back driving lay-ups. Fellow first year guard Isaac Thornton added one of his own. However, crafty passing and tenacious full court defense by senior Aztec Xavier Thames proved to be too much. San Jose turned the ball over on three straight possessions without crossing the half-court line, leading to three straight dunks and an eventual 32-2 run in the next 5 minutes.
With balanced scoring and steady contributions by all, San Diego State would boast four starters scoring in double figures. Most notable in this victory were Aztec seniors Thames and Davis. Thames, always under control, was able to get into the paint and to the line at will in this game. Although the box score may not indicate it, he spent his 25 minutes initiating his San Diego’s offense and disrupting the Spartans defensively. Although he would only finish with two assists and a single steal, his teammates and spectators alike saw much more than a 15-point contribution by the 6’3″ guard.
Davis continued his dominant season on the glass. With seven defensive rebounds and a game-high five offensive rebounds, Davis led all players with an impressive 12 boards. He was strong with the ball in his hands as well. He was able to successfully convert 3-of-8 shots through traffic and contact (with a few powerful “and-1” plays) for ten total points and his fourth double-double in the last 7 contests.
A player to keep an eye on is 6’8″ sophomore forward, Winston Shepard. Although he struggled shooting the ball in this contest and did most of his scoring in garbage time, it is hard to ignore a quiet 12 points, six assists and nine rebounds. He has length, athleticism and handles. In the second half of the game he even ran the point for the Aztecs and showed of some nifty penetration and passing skills.
Overall, this game was a showcase of the talent accumulated by the Mountain West’s bullies from San Diego. There are a few individuals that have the ability or potential to play in the D-League or for a top-level international league. If certain players continue to grow and/or improve their game, we may see a player or two from this contest play in the NBA, but that is a big “if.”
Nick Camilleri is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.