Men’s basketball notes: SDSU’s historically bad first half and Pope’s shot choice

by Patrick Carr, Sports Editor

There are games when a team has an occasional off night. With San Diego State’s men’s basketball team, those off nights come in the forms of off-halves of basketball.

The first half of SDSU’s 53-48 loss to University of San Diego, on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park in a highly promoted event, was historically awful.

The numbers:

Thirteen points, three made field goals out of 20 and seven turnovers. USD’s smaller, yet more aggressive lineup swept SDSU away on the rebounds to the tone of a 24-12 advantage.

The context?

“If you want to keep going back, I had a JV team that didn’t score a point in a half,” a frustrated Steve Fisher said after the game. “Everybody in America has stretches where they don’t make baskets, but with grit, and toughness and effort, some of those misses turn into second-chance opportunities, and we provided none of those.”

The reason for the bad half was effort. SDSU came out with no energy in the first half, something Fisher, senior center Angelo Chol and sophomore guard Trey Kell all agreed with.

So did USD head coach Lamont Smith.

“We play hard, but that’s something that you have to do in this game or else you can expect upsets,” Smith said. “That’s what I was so upset about with (our loss to Bethesda), you know, we came out and we just had no effort,” he said. “We just thought we could show up and beat a team. This is college basketball and no matter who you play, if you don’t show up and have tremendous effort, you can take a loss.”

It was arguably the Aztecs’ worst half of basketball since the first half of the game in Seattle last season against University of Washington. The stat line then was 15 points, 5-of-30 from the field, five turnovers and a dead even 20-20 mark on the rebounds.

Before that it was the fabled, or un-fabled, first half in Laramie, Wyoming, in early 2013, when SDSU somehow only lost to University of Wyoming by 13 after scoring just nine points in the first half.

The stat line then?

Four-of-24 from the field, eight turnovers and no assists. The only difference was SDSU was dead even on rebounds with Wyoming at 18-18, instead of getting murdered on the glass by much smaller team.

Pope’s different shot choice

Early in the first half, when sophomore forward Malik Pope has routinely taken a boat load of uncontested 3-pointers and would miss that subsequent boat load, Pope instead went to the low block and posted up against a smaller defender.

It worked the first time, but Pope missed the next couple of shots from there. The result was what might be an average night for Pope, who hasn’t put it all together yet this year. Seven points, three rebounds, 3-of-7 from the field and 1-of-2 from 3-point range.