The Aztecs poor shooting carried over from their win against USD Thursday. This time the opponent was Pac-12 foe Washington, who led 30-21 at the half. But the Aztecs went on a furious run to open the second half and defeated the Huskies 70-63.
These two teams have only played twice before, a home-and-home series in 2003-04, with Washington coming out on top in both games. With the exception of two losses against Arizona, the Aztecs have won 12 straight against other Pac-12 opponents.
A Tale of Two Halves
Xavier Thames and J.J. O'Brien were a combined 3-for-18 (17%) shooting in the first half. And the team made only 1-of-7 three point shots (14%). The Aztecs made just 27.3% of their field goals at halftime. Conversely, C.J. Wilcox and Andrew Andrews were 6-for-12 on field goal attempts and three-for-three on three point shots for the Huskies. The Huskies made 42.9% of their field goals. It's amazing the Aztecs weren't even further behind.
"We shot it as poorly as we've ever shot it in the first half but didn't quit playing defense." - Steve Fisher, Aztecs Head Coach
In the seccond half, the Aztecs looked like a different team. Actually they looked like themselves, and not the shadow of themselves they were in the first half. Their 18-2 run led to a seven point lead for the home team. The Huskies fought back and went on a 9-1 run of their own and reclaimed a one point lead with 11:24 remaining. In less than a minute the Aztecs recaptured the lead on a pair of free throws and never relinquished the lead.
The Huskies continued to keep things close, and a couple of three pointers from Nigel Williams-Goss brought them within two points (65-63) with just 43 seconds left. The Huskies missed their final four shots while the Aztecs made most of their free throws to go on to a 70-63 hard-fought victory.
The Aztecs shot 60% from the field in the second half while the Huskies were held to 34.5%. The layups that just wouldn't go in for the Aztecs in the first half found their way home in the second half. And three players for the Aztecs hit a three pointer in the second half to help counter the superior long-range shooting of the Huskies.
The Run that Won
From the end of the second half run where the Aztecs led by seven, they were able to push the lead to as much as nine points and had it cut to as few as two points. The teams played even from the end of the run, with the Aztecs winning by seven. Were it not for the depth and extent of that turnaround, this game could have had a different outcome.
Thames and O'Brien were a combined 7-of-7 from the field and 8-of-11 from the free-throw line in the second half. They both overcame their first half shooting woes and as team leaders led their team back. Thames finished with a team-leading 19 points. Josh Davis led the team with 10 rebounds and scored eight points. Winston Shepard finished with 17 points and made 8-of-10 free throws.
The Aztecs were outrebounded 41-31 by a smaller Huskies team that only played eight guys and only seven had significant minutes. But the Aztecs were plus 10 in blocks and plus five in steals. They also had eight fewer turnovers and eight fewer personal fouls. Once again the Aztecs played tough defense, made it hard for their opponent and left the arena with another victory.
San Diego State doesn't have another game until they meet Southern Utah on December 18. Their next three opponents pale in comparison to what they faced this past week and in the Wooden Legacy. If all goes well, the Aztecs should finish 2013 with a 10-1 record.