In recent years one of the trademarks of Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program has been their ability to defend, with the Aztecs annually ranking amongst the best teams in the country in many of the major statistical categories when it comes to defense. However the one question entering this season, especially with Xavier Thames having graduated, was which players would be capable of stepping forward offensively.
Sunday night represented a low point for San Diego State on that end of the floor, as the 13th-ranked Aztecs produced just 36 points while shooting 20.4% from the field in a 49-36 loss at Washington.
With San Diego State shooting 39.3% from the field and 28.6% from three this season, and playing without one of their best shooters in senior Aqeel Quinn (he’s shooting just 31.3% from three but leads the team with ten made three-pointers), Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar gave the visitors multiple looks defensively and the strategy paid off. Washington played both man and zone Sunday night, and that led to San Diego State producing a scarce number of high-percentage looks.
SDSU managed to rebound nearly 45 percent of their misses on the night but they failed to take advantage, scoring just 14 second-chance points and being outscored in that category by Washington (15-14). In recent years the Aztecs have been taken advantage of the offensive glass, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re struggling cash in on those extra opportunities.
Sure, the Aztecs struggled mightily to make shots. But to paint that as being their doing alone would be unfair to a Washington team that’s now 8-0 on the season. Neither team shot all that well from the field, with Washington finishing at 37.6% from the field. But in guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews the Huskies not only had shot-makers, but in the case of Williams-Goss also had a point guard capable of facilitating things and getting his teammates decent looks.
Williams-Goss finished the game with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Andrews added 13 points and five assists. In short, what those two provide Washington on the perimeter is what San Diego State is still searching for. Freshmen Trey Kell and Kevin Zabo are still finding their bearings at the point, with the former not having played the position in high school. And not having Quinn hurts with Dwayne Polee II shooting 33.3% on the season and Matt Shrigley playing in just his second game of the season on Sunday.
This isn’t the time for “the sky is falling” overreactions, as can be the case after historically bad showings like the one San Diego State put forth in Seattle. Given how good they are defensively, San Diego State is going to win far more often than they lose. But to be a factor in March, both within the Mountain West and nationally, finding a difference-maker (or preferably, difference-makers) on the offensive end will be critical.