The San Diego State Aztecs are one of the top defensive teams in the country. They proved exactly why on Friday night.
Despite starting the game on a 14-2 run, and 30 points from arguably the best college basketball player in America in Doug McDermott, the Creighton Bluejays were handed their first loss of the season. The San Diego St. Aztecs defeated the Bluejays 86-80 to head to the Championship of the Wooden Legacy Tournament. The loss sent Creighton down to the 3rd Place Game, and prolonged a meeting with their new BIG EAST foes, the Marquette Golden Eagles, to its original matchup on New Year's Eve, and the Bluejays will now place the George Washington Colonials.
The Bluejays, and McDermott, came out swinging in the opening minutes of the game. Greg McDermott scored 16 of the first 19 points for Creighton and only missed one shot while doing it. The Aztecs, credit to them weathered the storm under the direction of head coach Steve Fisher, and stormed their way back in front by the end of the 1st half. Despite starting off hot, the Bluejays struggled later in the half, and finished shooting 42.3 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the 3-point line.
San Diego St. however flipped the script, after starting cold, and tore up for the rest of the 1st half, finishing the half shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 60 percent from the 3-point line. The star for the in the first half was Xavier Thames. Thames, a senior guard from Sacramento, Calif. scored 13 points in 15 minutes shooting 66.7 percent from the field (4-6 FG). Thames was perfect from the free throw line on his two attempts, paving the way for San Diego State to finish 6-6 from the FT line in the 1st half. Thames would finish with a career high 26 points in 33 minutes.
The second half seemed like a completely different story for both teams. The Bluejays were able to shoot the 3-point ball at a much higher clip, and shoot better than the Aztecs from the field in the second half. However, it was too little, too late. At one point, after the Bluejays jumped to the 14-2 lead, the Aztecs outpaced their opponent 49-18. The Bluejays actually wound up outscoring the Aztecs 50-46 in the 2nd half, but San Diego St. had to large of a lead built up and were able to withstand a furious rally by Creighton.
A big reason for this loss was that Creighton's bench for the most part was ineffective. No Creighton players from the bench scored until the 15:45 mark in the 2nd half, when Ethan Wragge drilled one of his eventual five 3-pointers. The Bluejays wound up outscoring the Aztecs 24-21 in bench points but just as the story of the game played out, it was too late for any type of victory. Devin Brooks, fresh off of a 23-point barrage, finished the game with just nine points in 21 minutes in, perhaps, a moment of hangover from one heck of a performance.
Creighton's 3rd Place Game in the Wooden Legacy Tournament will take place Sunday evening at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The game will be at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
|Doug McDermott||B+||McDermott's hot start simply couldn't be ignored and down the stretch McDermott was an integral reason why the Bluejays were in the mix. One of the nation's best scorers and best players had a solid night from the floor, even though he, much like the rest of the Bluejays, entered a huge cold spell.|
|Will Artino||C-||In 13 minutes of action, Will Artino scored just four points and only grabbed one rebound. Artino is not the most athletic player, but being that he is the tallest player on the floor for Creighton, he has to do a better job around the rim. Period.|
|Austin Chatman||C+||Chatman led the way for the small guards that the Bluejays possess. He had 11 points on seven shots and picked up four rebounds. The three turnovers, as well as the fact that he wound up fouling out are very glaring, but he was one of the more productive players not named Doug McDermott.|
|Jahenns Manigat||C-||Jahenns Manigat scored the first three points for the Bluejays in the game. From there, he did not score a single point in 20 minutes of action. That just about sums it up.|
|Grant Gibbs||B||This was arguably Grant Gibbs' most productive game of the entire season. Gibbs scored eight points, dished out seven assists and skied for six rebounds. FIve of those six rebounds were offensive. If the Bluejays can get this type of contribution from Gibbs, they will be just fine.|
|Devin Brooks||C||After having the best game of his short collegiate career thus far, Devin Brooks followed up with a bit of a let down. Keeping things consistent will be key for Brooks going forward, but one has to wonder if playing a back-to-back led to this. Nonetheless, Brooks' lack of production was one of the reasons the Bluejays struggled so mightily.|
|Ethan Wragge||C+||Wragge was able to deliver a couple of needed three pointers to help salvage a game that was getting away from the Bluejays towards the end of the 1st half and at the beginning of the 2nd half.|
|Isaiah Zierden||D||Two minutes played, zeros across the board. Not much that you can really say here, since Zierden is usually a role player. But you would like something from your bench players and Zierden could not simply collect anything.|
|Avery Dingman||D||Much like Zierden, Dingman did not contribute much in a lengthier time (8 minutes compared to just 2). It might seem a little unfair, but once again, with the Bluejays in need of others to step up, DIngman was one of many who could not contribute.|
|Greg McDermott||B-||I think that Greg McDermott coached a fine game offensively and did the best he could defensively against an Aztecs team that weren't known to be a good offensive squad. However, I do think he could have managed the game a little bit better when SDSU was starting to run away with it. Calling timeouts at more effective times could have been more useful. With that said, it did seem like they were able to make offensive adjustments after going cold, so credit goes to him for that.|