Back on Tuesday night, the SDSU mens basketball team notched their first conference win of the season and looked every part the team that was predicted to win their fourth straight regular season conference title. The were aggressive on defense, forcing 15 turnovers, and utilized their depth on offense as five different players scored in double figures. On Saturday night they will look to keep momentum from their win on Tuesday as they take on the 6th place Utah State Aggies at Viejas Arena.
The Aggies are led by senior forward Jalen Moore (17.5 ppg), who was a preseaon all Mountain West selection, and freshman gaurd Kody McEwen (15.1 ppg). Both are shooting over 40% from 3-point range, with McEwen knocking down a team leading 45% of his shots from deep.
The Aztecs are led by sophmore point guard Jeremy Hemsley who leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game and is shooting a blistering 48% from 3-point range. In addition to Hemsley, the Aztecs will be looking to sophomore forward Max Hoetzel to continue his impressive conference play. He’s averaging just over 13 points per game in four conference games so far this season and is shooting 37% from 3-point range on the season.
For the Aztecs to win
- Balanced scoring - when the Aztecs share the ball and receive contributions from their entire line up, they can compete with any team in the country. The issue though, is that their much maligned offense often doesn’t all click at the same time, resulting in prolonged droughts during games where they can’t score the ball. They were able to avoid those droughts against the Spartans, and will need to avoid them against the Aggies who possess a much more potent offense.
- Transfers - Coming into this season there were very high expectations for Indiana transfer Max Hoetzel and Missouri transfer Montague Gill-Caesar (Teki) and while Hoetzel has over come a slow start and has scored in double figures in every conference game this season, Teki has yet to contribute on a consistent basis. But against SJSU he notched 10 points and showed flashes of being the go to, aggressive scorer the Aztecs thought they were getting when he transfered. Prior to Tuesday, Teki had only scored 3 points in 3 conference games. Hopefully Tuesday was a sign that Teki is gaining confidence and will be able to contribute off the bench.
For the Aggies to win
- Rebounding - The Aztecs have struggled to rebound the ball this year when Malik Pope isn’t on the floor. If Pope misses the game tonight, the Aggies should be able to win the rebounding battle which will lead to second chance point opportunities.
- Turnovers - The Aztecs have been prone to turnovers all season, and senior gaurd Shane Rector has knack for picking opposing gaurds pockets (1.5 steals per game) especailly when it comes to the Aztecs. In three games against the Aztecs last season Rector totalled 9 steals.
Potential good news for the Aztecs as junior forward Malik Pope, who has yet to suit up for a conference game this season, has been upgraded from doutfull to questionable for Saturday nights game. Even if he’s not able to play against the Aggies, it’s a great sign that his condition is improving. The Aztecs are a completely different beast when the 6’10” forward is on the floor. His length and athleticsim, combined with his ability to score from any where on the court make him a match up nightmare for every team in the conference. Furthermore, he’s second on the team in rebounding, which has been a major problem for the Aztecs as they have been out rebounded each game that he has missed.
Saturday night at Viejas Arena. Tip off is set for 7pm pst and it will be steamed on ESPN3.