Improved offensive execution pushes No. 24 San Diego State past Washington

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Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim and in the mid-range game.

But that didn’t happen in the first half, as San Diego State failed to execute offensively and thus struggled with its shooting. As a team SDSU shot 29.7% from the field, 1-for-7 from three and just one of their eight made field goals was assisted, resulting in a 30-21 Husky lead at the break. It was obvious what Steve Fisher’s team needed to do in order to turn things around and to their credit the Aztecs put forth a far better offensive performance in the game’s final 20 minutes.

There was better spacing and passing (ten of their 15 made field goals were assisted), resulting in 60% shooting from the field and 1.36 points per possession. In the end that was enough to hold off Washington 70-63, with C.J. Wilcox scoring 17 to lead three Huskies in double figures. Xavier Thames, who was outstanding during last weekend’s Wooden Legacy, led the way with 19 points and Winston Shepard III added 17 (5-for-6 FT in the game’s final 39 seconds).

SDSU was once again impressive on the defensive end, tying a school record with 11 blocked shots (Skylar Spencer had five) and limiting Washington to 38.6% shooting from the field. By this point in time San Diego State’s ability on the defensive end is a “given,” in that on most nights it’s safe to assume that Fisher’s players will put forth the effort required to make things difficult for the opposition.

It’s on the offensive end where SDSU will determine its standing within the Mountain West. And the difference between merely contending and winning the conference will boil down to how the Aztecs go about finding shots.

If it turns into a “one-on-one” contest like the first half against Washington it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be able to contend with the top teams in the Mountain West. But if San Diego State uses efficient ball and player movement, that combined with their defensive execution should have the Aztecs right in the middle of things in conference play.

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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Rick Pitino: Louisville ‘just ignored’ in top 25 due of scandal

Rick Pitino
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Louisville beatdown Saint Louis at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, a 77-57 win that was much closer at halftime than the final score might indicate.

The win moved the Cardinals to 5-0 on the season, and that, in turn, got Louisville into the back end of both top 25 polls.

They’re 24th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll, but that happened on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Pitino made sure to get a rant in about how this team is viewed and why pundits and voters should overlook the scandal currently plaguing his program.

“I think people are looking at that and they’re not really studying the team,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, adding that he thinks the team is “just ignored” because of the accusations leveled by self-described madam Katina Powell in the book she published back in October.

And here’s the thing: he is 100 percent correct. Louisville was overlooked in the preseason because the scandal, when combined with the fact that the Cardinals are integrating so many new pieces into their rotation, made it tough to see how they would be able to compete at a level that we’ve come to expect out of Louisville teams.

I know that because it’s why my colleagues at, against my wishes, refused to allow me to rank Louisville in the preseason top 25. In other words, I’ve had first-hand interactions with the haters. But if we’re going to be honest here, scandal or no scandal, Louisville probably wasn’t going to find their way into the preseason top 25, not when they had to replace Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.

And scandal or no scandal, no team from outside the top 25 is going to play their way into the top 25 by beating the likes of North Florida and St. Francis (NY) without some shenanigans — like Fred VanVleet getting hurt, like Indiana collapsing, like Arizona and Cal and Notre Dame playing their way out of the top 20 — happening around the country.

So Pitino is right: the scandal probably did have an impact on how his team was viewed in the preseason.

But Pitino the scandal isn’t what kept them out of the top 25 until Monday.

That weak non-conference schedule and roster turnover was why.

And if we’re going to be honest here, it probably should have kept them out for another week.