San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

3-Point Game Preview: San Diego State vs Creighton Bluejays

Noelani Sapla
Players on the SDSU bench during the Mountain West Tournament.

Despite failing to win the Mountain West Tournament, San Diego State (23-8, 13-4 Mountain West Conference) will still be putting on their dancing shoes en route to the NCAA Tournament.

Their first partner in this ballroom blitz? Coming out of the Big East, it’s the Creighton Blue Jays (22-11, 12-7 Big East).

The difference in terms of seeding isn’t that much as SDSU earned an 8 seed while Creighton netted the 9 seed.

However, Creighton is no pushover. This season, the Bluejays have taken down ranked opponents in Villanova, UConn (twice) and Providence in the Big East Tournament.

How the Aztecs will handle their Eastern opponents will only be revealed come Thursday. 

Here are three things to watch out for when the Aztecs and Blue Jays tip-off.

Defense, defense, defense

One thing these two teams can agree upon: trench warfare.

According to KenPom, SDSU currently ranks No. 2 in Adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bluejays, meanwhile, currently sit at No. 18.

The Bluejays are good, but the numbers favor the Scarlet and Black.

Leading the defense will be 7-foot-1-inch sophomore Ryan Kalkbrenner, who has helped the Bluejays allow just 65.9 points per game.

He is just one of many bigs that head coach Greg McDermott will play on the court, which doesn’t bode well for SDSU as they have struggled throughout the season when at a height disadvantage.

The Bluejays are also very disciplined and have committed only 13.4 fouls per game.

Creighton needs to post strong numbers on defense in order to make up for their inconsistent offense. While they do shoot 45% from field goal range, that number plummets to 30.7% when shooting from 3-point range.

While SDSU isn’t shooting as well from field goal range (43.1%), they have had somewhat better luck from downtown than Crieghton, hitting 35% of their 3-pointers.

Dynamic Duo

This would’ve been titled “Three-headed monster” if it hadn’t been for a late injury to Ryan Nembhard.

A freshman, Nembhard averaged 11.3 PPG and was one of the top scorers for Creighton before being selected as the Big East Freshman of the Year award.

Unfortunately for the Bluejays, a wrist injury suffered in late February cost Nembhard the remainder of the season, including the NCAA Tournament.

Good for the Aztecs, but Nembhard isn’t the only source of offense for the Bluejays.

The aforementioned Kalkbrenner is averaging 13 PPG while shooting 64.6% from field goal range and has posted double-digit points in 11 straight games.

Senior power forward Ryan Hawkins averages 13.9 PPG and is their top scorer from beyond the arc, shooting 35% on his 3-pointers.

These two shooters are easily the more well-known sources of offense for the Bluejays. But they aren’t the only ones who can put the ball in the basket.

Freshman Arthur Kaluma — the brother of senior Adam Seiko — was named to the Big East All-Tournament team after averaging 13.3 PPG on 46.3% shooting over three games, including 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting against No. 11 Villanova in the Big East Semifinal.

There are ways to shut them down, however, and it will all depend on SDSU’s interior defense. When he is hot, Hawkins can light up the scoreboard from deep as evidenced by his eight 3-pointers against Georgetown on Feb. 12 and other four 3-point performances against teams like BYU, UConn and Marquette.

Kalkbrenner, on the other hand, is a menace when close to the basket but won’t shoot outside the arc, making only three of his 12 3-point attempts.

Look for senior Nathan Mensah and junior Keshad Johnson to challenge Kalkbrenner inside while hounding Hawkins outside the arc, forcing the Bluejays to rely on their inconsistent 3-point shooting from other shooters.

Youth vs Experience

SDSU has one of the more experienced teams in the NCAA Tournament, regularly trotting out three seniors and a junior in their starting five.

Creighton, meanwhile, chooses to go young, starting two freshmen and a sophomore.

Nine Creighton players have never been to the NCAA Tournament while all but three Aztecs went to the big dance last year.

Youth is always a good thing to have on one’s side but not when it leads to turnovers.

And oh boy, do the Bluejays love cooking up some fresh turnovers, ranking in the bottom 200 with an average of 14.1 turnovers per game.

Coincidentally, the Aztecs have made a habit of feasting on turnovers and have averaged 14.7 PPG off of turnovers.

About the Contributors
Jason Freund, Sports Editor
Jason Freund is a journalism major from Santee, Calif. He hopes to become a sports journalist for a Major League Baseball team or a reporter for another major sport. In his free time, Jason enjoys listening to music, going to the gym and watching baseball. Jason began writing for The Daily Aztec in October 2019 and also writes for the East Village Times. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonfreund_.
Noelani Sapla, Staff Photographer, '21-22 Photo Editor
Born and raised in San Diego, Noelani is a graduate student at San Diego State University working towards a masters degree in education. She joined the Daily Aztec staff as the photo editor for the 2021-2022 year, and is currently a staff photographer. She credits the Daily Aztec for the experience and opportunities to cover the NCAA tournament in Houston where the men's basketball team played in the national championship game. While having a degree in education and teaching, Noelani's dream is to become a professional sports photographer.
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3-Point Game Preview: San Diego State vs Creighton Bluejays