Aztecs’ defense, athleticism on display in blowout win

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At the end of January, San Diego State traveled to Logan to face Utah State, a newcomer to the Mountain West Conference. Stew Morrill’s squad introduced the Aztecs to their style of play, one that had helped USU notch eight consecutive 20-plus win seasons in WAC. The Aggies converted 54 percent of their two-point field goals, and made a whopping 50 percent of their threes, but San Diego State somehow managed to win.

Fast-forward to tonight’s SDSU-USU rematch, and there was little to suggest the Aggies could replicate that late January feat. Steve Fisher’s team committed seven turnovers in the second half, had Xavier Thames make just one field goal, underwent two scoring droughts of various lengths, posted an efficiency rating of only one point per possession, and still won by 15 points. The Aztecs are arguably the most athletic team in the conference; there isn’t another team that can match the lineups Fisher can field. When that athleticism is combined with the defensive tutelage of Fisher and assistant coach Justin Huston, the Aztecs justify their top ten poll ranking.

San Diego State held USU to .74 PPP, which is the third time the team has held a conference opponent below .80 PPP this season. Consider the squad’s defensive effort on Preston Medlin, Utah State’s most efficient offensive option: Medlin made just one of his seven field goal attempts, and was hounded whenever he touched the ball or came within it’s vicinity. SDSU can switch each of their five positions, a skill the team showcased in tonight’s win; whether it was Josh Davis switching onto a USU guard, or Thames switching three times before forcing Medlin into a turnover, the Aggies seemed surprised when they had an unimpeded look at the basket.

What is also fascinating about SDSU’s defensive prowess is their lack of fouls. Utah State attempted just eight free throws tonight, and because the Aztecs are so defensively balanced, a player is hardly ever caught out of position and compelled to reach or swat at an opponent to make a play. The Aztecs know where their help is on the court and how to steer the offensive player in that direction to force a bad shot.

Albany suspends coaches 1 game for recruiting violation

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — University at Albany men’s basketball coach Will Brown and associate head coach John Iati have been suspended for one game for an NCAA recruiting violation.

The school said Iati would serve his suspension Friday night against Yale, and Brown will miss Monday’s game against Oneonta.

The Level III violation occurred when Iati staged the national letter of intent signing ceremony of a prospective student-athlete. The recruit and his family were photographed wearing team-issued apparel.

The university said the violation was reported to the NCAA.

VIDEO: Colorado’s McKinley Wright gets a friendly bounce with buzzer-beater to beat Quinnipiac

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The iron was kind to Colorado’s McKinley Wright, as he was able to get a game-winning three at the buzzer to drop as the Buffaloes avoided an embarrassing loss to Quinnipiac in the opener of the Paradise Jam:

https://twitter.com/FloHoops/status/931690797992472576/video/1

Colorado was down by as many as 13 points in the second half, using a 23-9 run to close the game and escape with the 70-69 win.

Guy’s 29 lead Virginia past VCU, 76-67

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Kyle Guy was never hesitant when Virginia needed a basket, and because he wasn’t, the Cavaliers were able to hold off VCU, 76-67 on Friday.

Guy scored a career-best 29 points and hit two 3-pointers in the final three minutes after the Rams closed to within three, bringing roars from a soldout crowd at the Seigel Center. The first 3-pointer gave the Cavaliers a 66-60 lead, and the next one pushed it to 74-67 with just 41 seconds remaining.

“It was a blast,” Guy said. “This is one of the better environments I’ve played in.”

The Cavaliers won by taking care of the ball, committing only five turnovers, and by cashing in on VCU’s mistakes. The Rams turned the ball over a dozen times, and Virginia outscored them 16-2 off turnovers and 18-0 on fast break points. Those advantages helped them overcome a 36-26 rebounding disadvantage.

The Cavaliers (3-0) also made 10 3-pointers, with Guy accounting for half of them.

“Any time you’ve got a guy like that, get him going early and he becomes a buzz-saw,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said of Guy.

“We got some good looks and then Kyle put on a heck of a shooting clinic with the shots he was making,” coach Tony Bennett said.

Ty Jerome also hit from long range in the closing minutes after VCU (2-1) closed to within 68-64 with just over 2 minutes remaining.

After Guy made it 66-60 with 2:55 to play, Issac Vann scored made it 66-62 with a driving basket, but Guy hit a pair of free throws and, after a driving basket by Williams, Jerome followed with his third 3-pointer of the game. Jerome added 13 points and seven assists for Virginia.

Vann led VCU with 19 points, Johnny Williams had 14 and Khris Lane 12.

“If you told me 48 hours ago, three days ago, four days ago it would be a 2-minute game, one-possession game, 2 minutes, I would have taken it,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “… I want this to sting for about an hour. Make it hurt for an hour and let’s use this and get better.”

The Rams left after the game for Hawaii and the Maui Invitational.

“It’s a tough loss, a learning experience and we’ve got more basketball coming up this week,” Vann said.

THE BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers had little trouble with VCU’s pressure, turning the ball over just five times and outscoring the Rams 16-2 off turnovers. They also outscored the Rams 18-0 on fast break points, but they were beaten on the backboards 36-26. VCU had 10 offensive rebounds, but just six second-chance points.

VCU: The Rams averaged 94.5 points in their first two games, but are still working to integrate what first-year coach Mike Rhoades wants them to do on offense and defense. Johnny Williams can be a force driving to the basket, and transfer Vann gives them another quality 3-point shooter. They cam,e into the game forcing an average of 14 turnovers.

UP NEXT

Virginia is at home on Sunday against Monmouth.

VCU faces Marquette in the Maui Invitational on Monday.

Pro golfer, Wisconsin fan Steve Stricker does not like J.P. Macura

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Wisconsin resident, Badger fan and pro golfer Steve Stricker was not happy after UW lost to Xavier on Thursday night.

For starters, his team lost.

That sucks.

Then J.P. Macura went and rubbed it in everyone’s face, doing the Gator Chomp at the student section after he threw down an alley-oop with less than a minute left:

Stricker was not having any of it:

Me?

I loved it.

And maybe, just maybe, the fact that Wisconsin’s entire student section spent the game telling Macura that he’s an a****** had something to do with his reaction.

Also … how many middle fingers do you see in this picture?

Thank you Badger fans. What a hostile environment.. I appreciate the love

A post shared by Jp Macura (@jpmacura) on

Lonnie Walker hurt as No. 11 Hurricanes beat A&M 90-59

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker IV twisted his left ankle Thursday night, and coach Jim Larranaga was sore himself after the latest lopsided win by the 11th-ranked Miami Hurricanes.

Larranaga said Walker wasn’t seriously hurt, and the coach seemed more concerned about his team’s effort and focus in a 90-59 victory over Florida A&M.

“I didn’t think we were very good from start to finish,” Larranaga said. “We need to play a whole lot harder, and better defensively. We looked sluggish. I told the team I was extremely disappointed in our effort.”

Walker was assisted to the locker room in the first half after stepping on another player. The Hurricanes are scheduled to play La Salle next Wednesday in Walker’s hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.

“We won’t know for a couple of days, but I think he’s fine,” Larranaga said.

Is he likely to play in the next game?

“Oh, he’s going to play in Reading,” Larranaga said.