Aztecs seek to cage Bulldogs

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer

by Matthew Bain

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Associated Press No. 13 San Diego State begins a tough, two-game road trip this Saturday against California State University, Fresno.

The Bulldogs are arguably the hottest team in the Mountain West. Their only loss in the last seven games came at Laramie, Wyo. The Aztecs know all too well how difficult it is to win there. During that seven-game stretch, Fresno State senior guard Tyler Johnson has been on an absolute tear, averaging 19.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

The Aztecs are fresh off a resounding bounce-back win against San Jose State University on Tuesday. Yes, SJSU is the worst team in the conference. But the Aztecs made a conscious effort to score in the point and make the extra pass. They moved the ball so efficiently that 12 SDSU players scored.

A MW power and a flaming hot team clash this Saturday in Fresno. Here’s where the advantages lie:

Offense

By the numbers, SDSU and Fresno State are almost identical on offense. The Bulldogs average just 2.3 more points per game than the Aztecs and shoot the same field goal percentage. Fresno State lacks a solid presence on the offensive boards, though—SDSU has 84 more offensive rebounds than Fresno State.

I have to give the edge to Fresno State because it has more scoring options. Four Bulldogs average double-digit points per game, whereas the Aztecs only have two. And when senior guard Xavier Thames plays poorly, SDSU struggles to score. Sophomore forward Winston Shepard, junior forward Dwayne Polee II and redshirt freshman guard Matt Shrigley have shown they can fill Thames’ role on occasion, but haven’t done so consistently.

Edge: Fresno State

Defense

This one isn’t quite as close. All you have to do is look at the numbers. Fresno State ranks 98th nationally in points per game allowed and SDSU ranks third. The Aztecs allow their opponents to shoot 38 percent and the Bulldogs allow opponents to shoot 43.3 percent. Let’s just say it: it’s quite difficult to score against a tall, big and fast defense like SDSU’s.

Edge: SDSU

Intangibles

This game can definitely be a trap game—Fresno State is a hot, underrated team with a streaky offense. The Bulldog crowd will try its best to make life miserable for the Aztecs. But I saw an SDSU team on Tuesday that played with renewed focus and motivation. Everything the Aztecs did, they did with a purpose, even during warm-ups.

Edge: SDSU

Prediction: SDSU 72 Fresno State 63

You can watch the game this Satuday at 7:15 p.m. PT on CBS Sports Network or listen on The Mighty 1090 AM.

Photo by Wesley Beights, Staff Photographer

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