While their game at No. 16 Kansas on Sunday afternoon represents a major opportunity for both No. 21 San Diego State and the Mountain West given the league’s low number of marquee non-conference victories, the fact of the matter is that from an importance standpoint that game isn’t as important as a conference matchup.
The Aztecs opened Mountain West play with a tough matchup, playing on the road against a Colorado State team that makes up for its lack of depth with sheer effort. Ultimately the difference between the two teams was their production in an area that measures 15 feet long and 12 feet wide.
Xavier Thames scored 23 points and Winston Shepard III added 17 for the visiting Aztecs, who outscored the Rams 40-16 in the paint on their way to the 71-61 victory. San Diego State shot just 12-for-21 from the foul line compared to Colorado State’s 18-for-25, but the missed opportunities from the charity stripe were nullified by the Aztecs’ ability to get into the paint. San Diego State, which entered the game shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc, shot just 5-for-16 against Colorado State but that wasn’t an issue in the end as the Rams shot 3-for-14.
Colorado State scored just four of its 16 points in the paint in the first half, with San Diego State closing the period on an 11-2 run to establish a nine-point lead at the intermission. San Diego State’s length proved to be an issue for the Rams, and many of the good shots that Larry Eustachy’s team did manage to find missed the mark.
San Diego State may have some good numbers when it comes to perimeter shooting, but they refuse to settle for those shots. That three-point percentage cited earlier? The Aztecs shot that well while attempting the fewest three-pointers in the Mountain West. If Steve Fisher’s team remains committed to getting the ball inside by way of the pass or the dribble, they’ll be in good shape offensively.