They had a great season, won the first two NCAA Tournament games for the program, and even boasted a bona-fide pro prospect player who will likely bolt for the NBA Draft.
Yes, San Diego State was a fun little team to follow from the Mountain West Conference, but tonight UConn asserted themselves on the perimeter…er…Kemba Walker scored 36 points with a big broad grin on his face en route to a 74-67 victory.
Walker was absolutely prolific tonight, most notably during a stretch in the second half where he scored 14 consecutive points and set Twitter aflutter.
That, complimented by rising star Jeremy Lamb’s 24 points, confirmed to me my developing suspicions on the Achilles Heels heel of this Aztecs squad: they can’t stop the dribble drivers. In fact, they can’t even contain them. They also really like to jack three-pointers when they should just enter the ball into the post, but that’s besides the point.
While we gush over Jimmer Fredette and Walker’s superior scoring abilities, touting them as unstoppable, we must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that every player is at least containable. Jimmer was slowed tonight by Florida, and Walker was tempered for much of the last month of the regular season. Neither player was hardly even bothered though when matched-up against Steve Fischer’s club.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
In three games against BYU, tonight against UConn, and a game wayyy back in November against Gonzaga the Aztecs yielded point totals to their opponent’s star player of 43, 25, 30, 36, and 35 against the Bulldogs Steven Gray, respectively. With the exception of Fredette’s 25-point performance in mid-February, all those point totals were above or well above the player’s scoring average. It’s not necessarily a knock on the defensive abilities of the Aztecs perimeter players, but more of a lack of understanding from the entire team on why it’s of uber-importance to pay a lot of attention to a ball handler who can score, or get to a place where he can score, once he steps across half-court.
Perhaps this sort of flaw went overlooked because SDSU only lost three games all season, but the evidence was there to suggest they would really, really have problems with Walker tonight, and they did. The UConn junior was left open on the perimeter, saw his defender frequently go below the screen to allow the wide open jumper, and he got into the lane and hit that mid-range jumper.
It may be hard to argue that there’s a way to stop Kemba Walker, but there’s got to be a way to at least contain him and give yourself a real opportunity to win.