Admit it — this is more fun than last season, isn’t it?
Last year*, conference play was about reinforcing what everyone already knew. With a bunch of seniors and a super sophomore, the Aztecs had a perfect storm lineup — the kind that merits a preseason national ranking even when your program has the same number of NCAA Tournament wins as ITT Tech. Those Aztecs were there to kick ass and chew bubblegum and — wouldn’t you know it — they were all out of bubblegum.
But these Aztecs? This was supposed to be the rebuilding team with no inside presence. The team at risk of breaking the streak of 20-win seasons. The team that just 48 hours ago some dumbass blogger on an obscure SDSU podcast said didn’t really have a Top 25 roster and was probably going to lose at The Pit tonight.
I can’t remember who that guy was, but he should definitely shut the hell up because maaaaan is he a dumbass.
With that context, watching SDSU clear hurdle after hurdle this season en route to a 16-2 record has been downright inspiring. I guess it proves that the only thing better than dominance is unexpected dominance.
Win No. 16 was the toughest hurdle yet in my opinion. Sure the Aztecs have faced tougher teams than New Mexico, but they hadn’t faced a road environment like that (costumed students OMG!) nor played at altitude. Now they have, leaving The Pit with a 75-70 victory in their back pocket — this despite spotting the home team a 10-0 lead to start the game.
Impressive as fuck.
Coming off a rusty performance against Vegas, Xavier Thames led the way. He got hot in the first half, draining clutch 3s to turn the game from what looked early on to be a horrendous bedwetting into a competitive contest.
SDSU then surged ahead to lead by as many as 14 in the second half, thanks to swarming defense and a huge game from Franklin. LaBradford Franklin, that is. He hit the 3 that put the Aztecs up for good, and scored on a transition layup with 10 minutes left that proved to be a pivotal momentum builder.
No, really. I’m not shitting you, I’m talking about LaBradford here. The kid played a great game and definitely earned himself some more minutes down the road — a great development for a team that had relied almost exclusively on seven guys for all the heavy lifting so far.
Jamaal Franklin had a big second half, too, but I talked too much about him in the last post. Probably the reason he started this game so badly. Getting love from a blog nobody reads will give anyone a big head.
Another interesting thing to note: The Aztecs have now beaten UNLV and New Mexico despite Chase Tapley having consecutive off nights. Not sure how that’s possible, but I’ll take it.
Then again, all these guys do is defy logic.
* This is the last time I do the last year/this year comparison thingy, I promise.