UConn, Walker prove San Diego State had problems guarding perimeter

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They had a great season, won the first two NCAA Tournament games for the program, and even boasted a bona-fide pro prospect player who will likely bolt for the NBA Draft.

Yes, San Diego State was a fun little team to follow from the Mountain West Conference, but tonight UConn asserted themselves on the perimeter…er…Kemba Walker scored 36 points with a big broad grin on his face en route to a 74-67 victory.

Walker was absolutely prolific tonight, most notably during a stretch in the second half where he scored 14 consecutive points and set Twitter aflutter.

That, complimented by rising star Jeremy Lamb’s 24 points, confirmed to me my developing suspicions on the Achilles Heels heel of this Aztecs squad: they can’t stop the dribble drivers. In fact, they can’t even contain them. They also really like to jack three-pointers when they should just enter the ball into the post, but that’s besides the point.

While we gush over Jimmer Fredette and Walker’s superior scoring abilities, touting them as unstoppable, we must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that every player is at least containable. Jimmer was slowed tonight by Florida, and Walker was tempered for much of the last month of the regular season. Neither player was hardly even bothered though when matched-up against Steve Fischer’s club.

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In three games against BYU, tonight against UConn, and a game wayyy back in November against Gonzaga the Aztecs yielded point totals to their opponent’s star player of 43, 25, 30, 36, and 35 against the Bulldogs Steven Gray, respectively. With the exception of Fredette’s 25-point performance in mid-February, all those point totals were above or well above the player’s scoring average.  It’s not necessarily a knock on the defensive abilities of the Aztecs perimeter players, but more of a lack of understanding from the entire team on why it’s of uber-importance to pay a lot of attention to a ball handler who can score, or get to a place where he can score, once he steps across half-court.

Perhaps this sort of flaw went overlooked because SDSU only lost three games all season, but the evidence was there to suggest they would really, really have problems with Walker tonight, and they did.  The UConn junior was left open on the perimeter, saw his defender frequently go below the screen to allow the wide open jumper, and he got into the lane and hit that mid-range jumper.

It may be hard to argue that there’s a way to stop Kemba Walker, but there’s got to be a way to at least contain him and give yourself a real opportunity to win.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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