After that demoralizing three-game losing streak last month, the Aztecs won five straight. They did so by showing a crap ton of heart and mental toughness. But at no point did they look … well … dangerous.
A little refresher on those five wins:
- Garrett Green barely convinces me not to swear off sports entirely or join the merchant marines like I was considering
- Colorado State, which last won a road game in 1986, hangs around at Viejas
- Fortunately, Boise State is not exceedingly proficient at shooting spherical projectiles through stationary cylindrical objects
- 18 point lead? What 18 point lead? *whistles*
- Holy shit what a terrible and embarrassing collapse oh hey Jamaal Franklin!
Fine wins, all; I’m not going to throw any of them back. But at any point along the way did you say to yourself, “this looks like a team that can get back to the Sweet 16″? Hell no. And not just because people look at you funny when you mutter stuff to yourself. The team was limping across the finish line.
But the team that ran Colorado State out of the Thomas & Mack tonight in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament? There’s a team that can get back to the Sweet 16.
Let’s get this out of the way: The Rams are good. They probably belong in the tournament, and I really hope they get in. As MWC rivals go, they rank extremely low on the annoyance scale. And did I mention they’re good? They are.
Yet the Aztecs absolutely mushroom stamped CSU tonight. They did it with hustle, with rebounding, and with defense. Most of all, they did it with athletes.
Chase Tapley’s quickness. Deshawn Stephens’ freakish length. Jamaal Franklin’s Jamaalian Jamaalitude. It’s impressive as hell when it all clicks.
Tonight, Tapley stood out. On a night where his outside shot wasn’t there, he created baskets by blowing past defenders and taking it to the rim. For a guy who disappeared at times down the stretch in conference play, his two straight excellent games in this tournament are a very, very good sign.
Sparked by Chase, the Aztecs pushed the lead to double digits in the second half and actually avoided pissing it away this time (progress!). It got so out of hand that chants of “this is our house” were rattling around the Mack with well over a minute to play.
It sounded to me like a chorus of angels. Drunken, degenerate angels.
In all, this was probably their most impressive win by the Aztecs since they sent droves of New Mexico fans
tweaking streaming for the exits at The Pit back in January. If they play like this next week? Well, they’ll probably have games the following week, too.
But for now, they’ve got one more day in Vegas. Hopefully they’ll bring us back a present. Say, a banner would be nice.