On a pristine Sunday afternoon at Petco Park, the San Diego State men’s basketball was supposed to provide an encore performance to the football team’s Saturday night 27-24 Mountain West championship win over Air Force Academy.
Yet, once again, SDSU was plagued by its inability to make a basket.
The Aztecs scored 13 first-half points against University of San Diego. That’s less first-half points than SDSU managed in its 49-43 loss to Little Rock, and only the second time this season SDSU has scored fewer than 20 points in a first half.
The Aztecs started the game flat and uninspired.
The lack of effort was visible in the way SDSU followed its shots, but the lack of effort getting the ball to post players with a size advantage was shocking.
SDSU has two players that are 6-foot-10 and two that are 6-foot-9, while USD has just one 6-foot-9 player.
Outworked and outclassed.
The truth is, the guys in the paint literally and figuratively dropped the ball.
Against USD, the Aztecs were outscored in the paint and out-rebounded in the first half with the Toreros enjoying an 8-to-1 advantage in offensive rebounds.
“You could stumble into three or four or five offensive rebounds if you just move a little bit,” head coach Steve Fisher said after the ugly loss.
Yet this game was not an isolated incident. It was the continuance of a theme.
In the second half against Long Beach State, the Aztecs were outscored in the paint and out-rebounded. The 49ers grabbed nine more offensive rebounds than the Aztecs during that time.
Out of the four halves the Aztecs played in Las Vegas against West Virginia University and UC Berkeley, they were outscored in three of them and out-rebounded in two.
The loss against USD was not surprising, it was the result of a team that was already trending downward.
After the loss, Fisher was irate. What he thinks will fix his team is not an exotic concoction of basketball schemes, reminiscent of the famous 1-3-1 zone than helped the Aztecs overcome a 16-point deficit and beat University of New Mexico for the MW title in 2013.
“Don’t make me coach effort,” Fisher said.
Effort may be the missing ingredient to a recipe that has been on the verge of disaster, but effort is far from the only deficiency.
To complement the lack of inside scoring — read: dribble-drives, post-ups, put-backs, alley-oops — the game outside the paint has been equally disastrous.
In the first halves Cal, West Virginia, LBSU and USD outscored San Diego State in the paint, the Aztecs shot 28, 31 and 36 (represents first and second half against West Virginia, respectively), 57 and 15 percent, respectively.
The Aztecs would have lost to Cal if they didn’t shoot 52 percent in the second half, and would have lost to LBSU without the 57-percent shooting effort.
SDSU went 2-2 over those four games when it easily could have lost all four.
It’s not time to hit the panic button, but it’s time the Aztecs start playing complimentary basketball.