Fort Collins, Colorado
Contributing Writer Tyler Perches
After coming off a very tough home loss last Saturday versus New Mexico, San Diego State was looking for a bounce-back victory. What they would get with Colorado State was a furious opponent that would take them to the brink of disaster.
The Aztecs escaped with a six-point overtime win, 82-76 against the Rams in front of just over 6,000 fans in attendance. The raucous fans at the snowy Fort Collins Moby Arena, witnessed the Aztecs come back after being down as early as nine in the first half.
Throughout the night, the Aztecs really struggled to score the basketball. They went long stretches without scoring against the Rams defense.
However, in the overtime period, it seemed like the Aztecs couldn’t miss. In the five-minute extra period, the Aztecs scored 17 points shooting 71% (5-7) from the field and 100% (3-3) from beyond the arc.
During the game, the Aztecs’ best performance was undoubtedly from guard Lamont Butler who scored a team-high 19 points and received constant praise from the FS1 telecast.
He shot 50%(7-14) from the field, 50% (2-4) from beyond the arc, and 75%(3-4) from the free throw line. His play was especially spectacular in overtime where he scored 6 points and made all out of shots from the field.
Butler scored in a variety of different ways in tonight’s contest. Driving to the hoop for layups off screens, an improved stepback shot, and Butler knocked down some catch-and-shoot threes.
It felt like whenever the Aztecs needed a basket, Butler was the guy who would always come up big. Without his phenomenal play, it would have been hard seeing the Aztecs muster up enough offense to win this game.
On this night the team got a big boost off the bench to help out. That player is Micah Parrish. With his added 15 points and all shots made from the field, Parrish was a perfect 5-5 from two and he knocked down all three of his three-point attempts.
In the five previous conference games, Parrish was only averaging 5.4 points and had only made two total three-pointers.
Micah was a huge contributor in overtime and also displayed his unique versatility to the offense when the Aztecs went to a small ball lineup and he was playing the 4 spot. He also added 5 rebounds, and 3 steals to show he wasn’t just a one-dimensional player on the evening. If Parrish puts up more performances like these the Aztecs will be in great shape.
SDSU’s hottest player coming into the game was Matt Bradley, who had a very unique game. Bradley missed his first seven shots of the ball game and didn’t score his first points until there were about 9 minutes left in regulation.
Even though Bradley wasn’t scoring at all for the majority of the game, he was doing many other things to get his teammates involved and let the game come to him. He led the Aztecs in assists with 7 on the night and also added 4 rebounds.
After knocking down two free throws, Bradley’s scoring started to go off. When it was all said and done, he actually still ended up with more points than his season average of 13.5 points per game. He scored 14 points.
7 points in the second half and 7 points in the overtime session were just what the team needed. Despite a late miss at the charity stripe, Bradley’s output displayed that he was still being aggressive even when the shots weren’t going down.
A Sign of Things to Come?
Though the frontcourt of the Aztecs respectively had scoring & rebounding contributions from Keshad Johnson, Aguek Arop (who made his return from a groin strain), Nathan Mensah, and Jaedon LeDee—the offense never seemed to fully gel against a smaller Rams team.
When the decision to play small ball produced much better shooting and ball movement in all instances, one has to wonder if this lineup will be something we see more of from the Aztecs.
Sitting at 14-4 with just one loss in the conference, the overall mindset is that nothing is broken. But in a matchup where the Rams were clearly outmanned without the presence of David Roddy anymore and yet still able to push the Aztecs to the edge is eye-opening.
The overtime performance was nothing short of perfection and while the Aztecs escaped with another W in the win column, it was largely due to that small ball lineup of three guards (potentially four), and one big man on the floor.
The Mountain West Championship always runs through SDSU and the rest of the conference are gunning for the Aztecs. With so many moving parts and depth to this years team, the time to get the best lineup dialed in has never been more interesting than now.
In the loss, Colorado State had some outstanding moments in the game. The Rams were led by guard Jalen Lake who scored 17 points. He shot 6-8 from the field, which included 5-7 from three-point land. He made some very difficult three-pointers even when there was great Aztec defense.
What more could be said about Isaiah Stevens. He had a fantastic game for the Rams. Stevens’ double-double with 16 points and 11 assists felt like he’d always made the right decision if it was to shoot or pass. In addition, in the 44 minutes he played, Stevens only committed 1 turnover. His assist-to-turnover ratio was an excellent 11:1.
Next, up the Aztecs travel to face Air Force (12-7,3-3) on Saturday, January 21st at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The game tips off at 7:00 pm and is broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.