Tag: Josh Davis

Xavier Thames

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.

No. 10 San Diego State flexes defensive muscle against UNLV

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One of the greatest attributes of Steve Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs is their length, and its something the nation’s tenth-ranked team has put to good use on both ends of the floor for much of this season. Offensively, with guard Xavier Thames and forward Winston Shepard III leading the way, San Diego State consistently attacks the paint and more often than not creates a quality look as a result.

Defensively they’re an incredibly difficult team to crack, with their length and shot-blocking ability resulting in many teams looking downright inept in their quest to score points. And with San Diego State struggling on the offensive end against UNLV, who had won the last three meetings in the series, it was their defense that made the difference in the 63-52 victory.

The Aztecs shot just 34% on the night but UNLV was even worse, shooting 30% for the game with their first-half performance digging a hole that proved too deep to crawl out of. The Runnin’ Rebels, fresh off of their best outing on the season (a win at New Mexico on Wednesday night), opened the game shooting 4-for-27 from the field and trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half.

UNLV may not always have the best shot selection regardless of the opponent, but the fact of the matter is that they were kept from doing anything comfortably by San Diego State’s aggressive half-court defense. Dave Rice’s team managed to pull within five points with just under six minutes remaining, but two consecutive exchanges served as a reminder of the difference in offensive discipline between the two teams.

With a chance to pull even closer UNLV forced bad shots on consecutive possessions, only to have San Diego State go to the other end and get dunks from Skylar Spencer and Josh Davis (14 points, 14 rebounds). The Aztecs rebounded 46.2% of their misses and scored 19 second-chance points, which helped make up for their poor shooting night. San Diego State may not have the “prettiest” offense at times, but their commitment to doing what they do best (attack the paint) more than makes up for that.

That’s something UNLV is still struggling with, although they did show greater effort in their two games this week than in disappointing losses to Air Force and Nevada the week prior.

Thames scored 18 points but he struggled from the field (3-for-14 FG), and Shepard accounted for just six points on 2-for-6 shooting. But due to their ability to make things incredibly difficult for opponents with their defense, the Aztecs are built to survive off nights on the other end.

Balanced No. 13 San Diego State exorcises Clune Arena demons

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No. 13 San Diego State’s trip to Colorado Springs to play Air Force on Sunday afternoon was a tougher game than some may have realized, and not solely because of the fact that the Falcons entered the game 2-1 in Mountain West play. Dave Pilipovich’s Falcons had won the last two meetings between the programs at Clune Arena, with one of those victories being a 58-56 triumph during a 2011-12 season in which Air Force won just three league games.

With Tre Coggins rolling offensively Sunday’s game set up to be a difficult one for the Aztecs, but Steve Fisher’s team won 79-72 due in large part to their offensive balance. J.J. O’Brien, who thanks in part to an injured hand failed to score in double figures for five straight games, led the way with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds. The wrap that covered his right hand was gone on Sunday, and it was clear that not having to deal with the bandage made a difference for the versatile forward.

In total five San Diego State players scored in double figures on the day, including Xavier Thames (16 points, five assists), Winston Shepard III (14 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Josh Davis (13 points, 11 rebounds). That balance helped to offset the 29 points scored by Coggins, who through four Mountain West games is averaging 21.0 points per game. Now up to 17.8 points per contest, Coggins has been the most improved player in the Mountain West after averaging 2.4 points per game as a freshman.

Air Force, whose offensive system can be difficult to defend, shot 51.9% from the field. But they were unable to approach that percentage from three, shooting 7-for-20 from distance with San Diego State (7-for-14 3PT) scoring as many points on those shots. Matt Shrigley hit three three-pointers for SDSU, and despite being last in the Mountain West in three-point attempts the Aztecs rank second in percentage.

With their conviction to get into the paint offensively, San Diego State’s able to create quality looks from distance when there’s a need to kick the ball out. That’s been a key all season long, and that was once again the case on Sunday afternoon. The Aztecs certainly have some headliners, most notably Thames and Shepard, but they’re also a group with multiple players capable of making teams pay on any given night. And that’s one reason why they’re 14-1.