Thursday night Viejas Arena was rocking when a top-five Arizona team invaded to play San Diego State, and the CBS Sports Network announcing crew which featured Doug Gottlieb kept reiterating that going into San Diego with their student section The Show and win is no easy feat, regardless of his pick of having Arizona being his pick to cut down the nets at the Final Four this season in Dallas.
The home court advantage -- along with the Aztecs' talent -- is how San Diego State was able to keep the game close and even comeback in the second half with a chance to win the game.
Playing at home or away is a completely different story and I think to play a true road game is something that we are proud we did," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said after Arizona's 69-60 victory Thursday night. "San Diego State has an incredible crowd and a fantastic home arena and a very-well coached team and a team that is used to winning."
Arizona slowly pulled away throughout the game and held a double-digit game for most of the game, and the pinnacle was a 14-point lead at the 8:36 mark in the second half.
Then San Diego State went on a 16-6 run to make it a four-point game with 1:52 left in the game.
The Aztecs had a chance to get the ball back to cut into the lead even more when Arizona's Nick Johnson air balled a three-point shot, but the ball went out of bounds on a rebound attempt by a San Diego State player. There were 12 seconds left on the shot clock, and Arizona dialed up a surprise alley-oop from under the hoop to freshman Aaron Gordon, and that play sealed the win for Arizona.
San Diego State showed a lot of resilience by making a comeback against one of the nation's best teams, but the slow start is really what hurt them. The Aztecs struggled shooting the ball by only converting 36 percent of their shots and were out rebounded 39-28. Arizona's second chance points was where they build the lead over San Diego State with a 12-7 edge in that area.
San Diego State struggled to get the ball inside and settled for some questionable outside shots Thursday night. If the Aztecs hit 40 percent of their shots and a few more free throws they could have pulled off the upset.
The Aztecs were led by J.J. O'Brien and Xavier Thames who each scored 19 points and Winston Shepard chipped in with a dozen points. However, Tulane transfer Josh Davis was irrelevant in this game for San Diego State as he shot just 1 of 7 for two points and four rebounds.
The Aztecs need Davis to have better games if they are going to be a challenger for the Mountain West, and make a NCAA Tournament berth. Coming from Conference USA to the Mountain West is a step up in competition -- outside of playing Memphis -- and then playing Arizona is even much large. There is going to be somewhat of a transitional period for Davis, but it was a surprise for him to be ineffective.