Battle On The Midway - Syracuse v San Diego State

Let’s not rush to judge San Diego State after today’s loss

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Finally a basketball game played on an aircraft carrier this weekend went the full 40 minutes, with No. 20 San Diego State and No. 9 Syracuse taking on each other (along with the sun and wind) in the Battle on the Midway.

The Orange were the ones who did the better job of adjusting to the unfamiliar surroundings, limiting the Aztecs to 27% shooting in the 62-49 victory.

San Diego State struggled mightily from the foul line as well, making just 14 of their 33 attempts from the charity stripe.

By comparison while Syracuse didn’t shoot well from the foul line either (11-of-19) they did a much better job of eschewing the perimeter shot in favor of a look inside of the arc.

The Orange attempted just four three-pointers on the day while San Diego State attempted 18, with each team making one. That will get a team beat in a conventional gym, much less an outdoor court on a windy afternoon.

C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams led the way for the Orange with 17 points apiece, and Fair grabbed ten of Syracuse’s 40 rebounds as well.

Jamaal Franklin, Player of the Year in the Mountain West last season, led the Aztecs with 11 points. But he and Chase Tapley had a rough afternoon from the field, combining to shoot 6-of-25 from the field.

Add in 16 turnovers (Syracuse had 18 themselves) and you’ve got the recipe for a loss.

So how much can we take from this game? Outside of the occasion not a whole lot. Sure both teams need to be better with the basketball and the Aztecs need to shoot better, but when considering the environment and the fact that the game was postponed for two days it shouldn’t be a surprise that there were issues.

San Diego State shot below 35% in just three games (1-2 record) last season, and with players such as Franklin, Tapley, Xavier Thames and James Rahon days like this will be the exception rather than the rule.

If there’s one “request” for the Aztecs in the future it will be that they avoid settling for perimeter shots when facing a zone defense. That’s a rule that should apply no matter where the game is played, but even if future opponents throw a zone at San Diego State few will be able to replicate the length and activity of Syracuse’s 2-3.

Early season match-ups of ranked teams on aircraft carriers are entertaining to watch (when completed), but the day is more about the event itself than looking to figure out an unfinished product.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.