Column: Bradley and Trammell’s shooting slumps give no reason for panic

The Aztec basketball team is continuing to rack up wins despite the stars’ shooting woes


Noelani Sapla

Senior guard Matt Bradley shoots a jumper over his defender in a game vs UNLV on Feb. 11.

by Justin Cox, Sports Editor

There have been a lot of positives throughout the San Diego State men’s basketball team’s season. 

As of Feb. 13, the Aztecs sit atop the crowded and competitive Mountain West Conference with a record of 20-5 and rank 21st in the AP Poll. The advanced metrics like the Aztecs as well as they rank 19th in the NET ranking and are 17th in KENPOM. They have looked strong in recent games against the Mountain West’s best such as Boise State and Utah State. It appears they are primed for a strong finish to the season as the team heads into the postseason. 

However, in the last few weeks one issue has started to arise. According to Tron of Aztec Breakdown, a great Twitter follow for Aztec fans, senior guards Darrion Trammell and Matt Bradley averaged a combined 18 points per game on 40.1% eFG in the games from Jan. 21 to Feb. 3. In simpler terms, the two combined for 90 points on 96 shots— not good. 

In response to the Aztec Breakdown’s tweet, Bradley tagged Trammell and tweeted, “Both proven… We hoop and care (about) the numbers later.” 

No panic there. 

Entering the season, the two guards were expected to shoulder much of the team’s offensive load but the two have struggled to score efficiently in recent weeks. It’s clear Bradley isn’t concerned, and I’m not either. 

So far, his team has given him plenty of reasons to be confident they can win regardless of his shooting slump.

In the five games from Jan. 21 to Feb. 3, the Aztecs were 4-1— the only loss was in Reno at the hands of the Nevada Wolfpack. Players such as junior guard Lamont Butler, senior guard Adam Seiko and senior forward Nathan Mensah stepped up during their teammates’ skid to keep the Aztecs in prime position for a high seed in the NCAA tournament. The depth of the team, which national and local pundits raved about earlier this season, is proving why the Aztecs are a tough out regardless of who is scoring. 

Bradley went through a similar slump to start the season. In a game that encapsulated his slump versus BYU on Nov. 11, Bradley struggled going 3-16 from the field and only six points. But after the game head coach Brian Dutcher wasn’t concerned about his star player.

“I’m not worried about Matt,” Dutcher said. “Matt can score the ball. I see him at practice every day.”  

Unsurprisingly, Dutcher was right. 

As Mountain West play began, Bradley caught fire. In a four game span he averaged 21 points per game on 50% shooting. The breakout was good enough for the Mountain West Player of the Week award for the week of Jan. 2. 

Another one of those streaks appears to be on the horizon as in a 63-61 win at Utah State on Feb. 8, Bradley carried the Aztecs scoring 18 points on 7-10 shooting. He backed up that performance with 17 points on 6-8 shooting on Feb. 11 against UNLV. The result? Another Mountain West Player of the Week award. 

Bradley is capable of scoring with the bests scorers in college basketball. It was only a matter of time before he started hitting shots more consistently.

For Trammell, the slump has been more severe. Through 24 games, Tranmell is shooting a career low in field goal percentage (38.8%), 3-point percentage (31%) and free throw percentage (77.6). In the Feb. 11 game against UNLV, Trammell finished with zero points and six turnovers, a low-point in this midseason slump. 

Following a win over Boise State on Feb. 3, head coach Brian Dutcher said he thinks Trammell is frustrated with his percentages but stressed he can still contribute to winning even if his shots aren’t falling. 

“We have to continue to encourage him and tell him, we know you want to make shots and we want you to make shots, but your value to the team is not only about shot making,” Dutcher said. “It’s defending, pressuring the ball, and then getting your teammates involved.”

In the team’s win over Boise, Trammell did just that. Despite shooting only 2-7 from the field, he dropped a team-high seven assists and played strong pressure defense on the Boise playmakers. In the aforementioned game against UNLV, Trammell finished with six assists and two blocks— quite the feat for a 5-foot-10-inch guard. 

Trammell provides plenty of value to this Aztec team even if the shot isn’t going in. It remains to be seen if he can perform at the Division I level, but my bet is on him to figure it out.