Rushed Reactions: New Mexico 60, San Diego State 50Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2013
Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after the New Mexico-San Diego State game at the MW semifinals on Friday night.
Three Key Takeaways.
- New Mexico Bigs. Prior to the season, the consensus was that the Lobos had great guards but would be vulnerable inside, considering Alex Kirk was coming off a season missed to injury and Cameron Bairstow had the reputation of being alarmingly unathletic. But that idea quickly went away and by the time they returned from the Virgin Islands it was pretty well established that both of those guys were solid. Tonight, they were the difference. Between the two of them they combined for 31 points, 18 boards and four blocks (all of those belonging to Kirk), dominating especially in the first 24 minutes as they built up a 21-point lead. Give credit to guards like Kendall Williams and Tony Snell for finding them in position to put in easy hoops, but the size of New Mexico’s bigs gave SDSU trouble all night long.
- Tony Snell. Speaking of Snell, he’s been one of my favorite topics all season long and tonight we got the good Snell: 5-of-8 from three, 15 points, five boards, four assists and plenty of credit for helping to force Jamaal Franklin into a 3-of-12 night. He’s averaged 10 field goal attempts over the last 11 games, while never shooting less than eight times and never more than 13; in other words, he’s been consistent.
- What the Hell, Aztecs? So, this is a team that went 10-8 against Mountain West competition this year. For some time we’ve written off some of their struggles as “oh, they’ve had injuries” or “well, they’re young.” But there are some other problems. While they’ve got some decent size on the wings, they don’t really have much size in the paint, something exploited by the Lobos tonight. They also are severely lacking in shooters; Chase Tapley is rock solid, Xavier Thames is decent, but beyond that there are question marks. James Rahon is supposed to be their designated shooter, but he’s been mired in a two-year slump and tonight airballed a three-footer badly, along with other ugly shots en route to a 3-of-10 performance. Franklin, for all his talents, is not a polished jump-shooter. And guys like Winston Shepard and J.J. O’Brien think much more highly of their shooting ability than they should. This is a team that can find itself some good shots in the half-court, but they’ve struggled mightily in knocking them down. They’ll likely be pegged somewhere in the #8-#10 range in the bracket against another flawed team in the round of 64, but don’t be expecting this flawed team to be able to knock off a #1 or a #2 in the round of 32.
Star of the Game. Tony Snell. The bigs were primarily responsible for helping the Lobos build their nine-point haltime lead, but it was Snell with back-to-back-to-back threes at the start of the second half that put the game away. And his defensive presence was a big part of holding the Aztecs to 0.83 points per possession.
Quotable: Steve Alford on Tony Snell’s development: “A big reason why we’re 2‑1 this year against them is because of the job Tony Snell has done. He’s developed defensively. I’ve been talking about that for three weeks. Our team has gone to another level because of Tony’s development defensively and his concentration defensively, trusting himself, trusting his teammates, using his length. He’s gotten stronger over the off‑season. He’s now starting to use that.”
Wildcard. Snell/Franklin Collision. In the middle of the second half, with Franklin attacking the rim on a breakaway, Snell hustled up and swatted his shot from behind. The two collided, fell into the stanchion and it appeared that Franklin grabbed Snell’s jersey during the collision, whether intentionally or not, aiding a violent collision with the floor. Snell remained down for some time and left the game shortly, though he did return. Franklin, meanwhile, was treated to a chorus of boos for the remainder of the game, something he is not unfamiliar with. After the game, Franklin referred to Snell as a “brother from another mother” and Snell was prepared to write off the incident as well: “I just tried to go for a block. His hand accidentally hit me in my face, like in my eye. He went to check up on me to see if I was fine. It’s good.”
What’s Next? The Lobos will face the winner of tonight’s nightcap between UNLV and Colorado State tomorrow afternoon for the Mountain West Tournament championship. The Aztecs will head home, patch their wounds and prepare to watch the Selection Show on Sunday afternoon to see where they’ll be off to next.