Rushed Reactions: #4 St. Louis 64, #13 New Mexico State 44Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2013
RTC is reporting on the NCAA Second Round games at the San Jose pod today.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Saint Louis Was Never Threatened. The Billikens hardly had to sweat against New Mexico State today, as the Aggies really couldn’t put two plays together and never once threatened to make the game interesting. There was a brief period during the second half when NMSU went to a full-court press and caused the Saint Louis backcourt a bit of consternation with consecutive turnovers and some shaky play when they made it past half-court, but that was short-lived. Put simply, it was a methodical defensive clinic, the kind of which you might expect a #4 seed to put on a #13 seed in this round. The stats tell the story: NMSU shot 28% for the game, had a grand total of zero fast break points, and had no answer for Dwayne Evans (his 16 points at the half equaled the Aggies).
- Smothering Doesn’t Describe It Well Enough. Everyone knows that the SLU defense is legit — after all, it is ranked seventh in the nation according to KenPom, and its 57.7 PPG allowed is in the top 15. But until you see how they simply do not allow good looks at the basket, it’s hard to believe. Every pass, catch, dribble, and of course shot is challenged. I counted only two solid scoring opportunities for the Aggies in the first nine minutes of the game — situations where New Mexico State had clearly solved the defense for a good look. As noted above, the only time they ever made a “run” was in the second half off of their press — when left to depend on their offense figuring out the defense in the half-court, the Aggies were hapless.
- Sim Bhullar is an Interesting Case Study. First of all, this guy is enormous. There were times as he stood in the paint today where it appeared he was the early puberty kid among a bunch of 10-year olds. The difference between his size — 7’5″, 360 pounds — and everyone else was that stark. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was in the game, and on his first two catches in the paint, he couldn’t hang on to the ball. But he calmed down as the game went on, and the big burly freshman actually made a couple nice offensive moves and ended up with four points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He needs to lose 50 pounds to have better conditioning, but he’s got a promising future in college basketball.
Star of the Game: Dwayne Evans, St. Louis. Evans carried the Billikens in the first half, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 and equaling the entire team output of the Aggies at that point, but it was his play early that calmed his team and allowed their smothering half-court defense to get it going. The junior forward is playing great, going for 16 or more points in all of the Billikens’ last nine games.
- “Didn’t anticipate such a large role for him this year. He was a sponge. He will be a force for us going forward.” — NMSU head coach Marvin Menzies, on Sim Bhullar’s development this season.
- “For the most part, we wanted to play two against one against him [Bhullar], rather than one against one.” — Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews, on how to neutralize Bhullar inside.
Sights & Sounds: An 11:10 AM local start time is always a bit of tricky proposition for an NCAA pod, especially so when a local team (Cal) won’t play until the evening session. But Bay Area folks were up and ready, with the crowd about 50% full at opening tip and many others milling around the concourse. And then there was this, which was awesome.
What’s Next?: The Billikens move on to Saturday’s Round of 32 and will await the winner of #5 Oklahoma State and #12 Oregon. Neither team will embrace the challenge that Saint Louis presents, with their staunch defense and patient offense.