The Aggies get Conference play off on the right foot, namely by putting the CSUN Matadors under it. The Aggies rolled into San Fernando Valley to take on the leagues highest scoring team and held them to 37 points under their average while scoring a 59-44 win.
First, let me say on behalf of those in the USU Chat during the game last night and Aggie fans all over who listened to the game on the radio, it appears that Al Lewis has emerged unharmed. Many of us last night were living in fear of Al's health and well-being in the Matadome. It wasn't a beligerant crowd (I guess 1,283 is technically a crowd) or hostile officials that put Al at risk, but the recurring need to call Butler's high-flying, rim wratcheting dunks. On no less than 3 occasions Al risked annurism, high blood pressure and double hernias in order to convey the dramatics of Butler's gravity defying feats of violence upon the CSUN rim. As far as I know, Al will be ready to resume his duties on Saturday when we take on UoP. Hat's off to Al for giving it up for the team!
My comments are interpretaions of Al's play-by-play and the Box Score.
Last year CSUN jumped out to a 25-5 lead thanks to a gaggle of turnovers by the Aggies. We were simply unable to recover from it. This year the Aggies handled the press admirably and kept it close. We trailed early, but never by much. The game was tied at 17-17 with about 8:00 to go in the 1st half when the Aggies started to make their move. I believe we outscore CSUN 18-6 from there and never trailed again.
Early intot he 2nd half the Aggies had pushed the lead to double digits and they held it there for about 10 minutes. CSUN responded with about 7:00 to go, scoring 6 straight which cut the lead to 6. It went back and forth a bit, the lead got down to 4, I believe, before the Aggies went on a quick run that burst the Matadors comeback balloon. Ahead by 6, Ross drilled his 3rd three-pointer which silenced the awakened crowd and essentially sealed the win. The Aggies hit Free Throws late to help secure the final margin of victory, 15.
The Aggies used both Man and Zone D, but it was apparently the Zone that CSUN never figured out. They shot a miserable 34% from the floor and 17% from Three-land. CSUN's leading scorer, Boylan, managed a single point on an 0-7 effort, going 1-2 from the line. The Aggie D appears to have been ready for him. In contrast to CSUN, the Aggies shot 44% from the floor and 33% from Three-land. Ross was 3-5 from outside, making him the Aggies bona-fide outside threat. The rest of the team was just 1-7 from downdown. As nice as that is, and as nice as our rebounding margin of 38-30 was, the Stat of the game is 10. That's how many turnovers the Aggies had against a pressure D that dismantled us last year. We only had 3 turnovers in the 2nd half and I think you could argue that *that* is what won us the game.
There were 2 players that came into this game ready to make a difference. They put the screws on CSUN, providing timely scoring to lead the team with 17 and 14 apiece. Penigar and Nelson you say? Try Butler and Ross! The guard line that was MIA for the Gossner took over the team last night. Brown, Butler and Ross combined for 36 of the Aggies 59 points. Aggies across the nation slept easier last night, knowing that our guards are once again shooting the ball with confidence. While Butler had a game-high 17 (7-13) and wore out the highlight reel, Ross garnered POG honors for his very timely 3-point shooting and 14 points (5-8 ) .
An DP? He finished with a very quiet 8 points on 3-8 shooting while pulling down 6 boards. He left the game with about 8:00 left in the 1st half, having picked up his 3rd foul. His offense was essentially a non-factor from there, but as I've explained, there were several who picked up the slack. DP should be fresh for UoP... and hungry.
I should mention that all 9 players who got in garnered double-digit minutes. Evans was the lowest with 13 minutes, but produced 5 points and 2 O-rebounds from it.
TJ had 6 points and 3 fouls (all charges, IIRC) while grabbing 5 boards. His energy late in the 2nd half helped the Aggies secure the comfortable win.
Nelson was his typical work-horse self. He went 4-5 from the line, had 4 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds in 24 minutes. Several of his assists were to an orbiting Butler who dropped in long enough to score the Alley-oop. We saw this connection in the Gossner. It appears that they are getting it down pretty good.
Beyond Butler and Ross, the scoring was really spread out. Everyone who played produced, and you can't ask for much more on the road to start league play. This win should help build the confidence it'll take to go into Stockton and come out with a win vs. UoP.