When the season started on the road with a victory over Illinois State and then winning the Hilo tournament in Hawai'i, Aggie fans started to believe they were looking at a team better than they'd seen, maybe ever, put on the Aggie Blue. Then came the Jackson State game, backed up by a beating at the hands of BYU in Provo. We wanted to believe the Jackson State game was abberation, and that BYU, well, losing at BYU was forgivable.
Big West play sees Utah State take the road for 4 of their 1st 6 games, and the story unfolding is one that no Aggie faithful wanted to read. Only now are we seeing that the ISU win was fools gold, and that our debacle at Jackson State wasn't an abberation, but a harbinger of things to come. While loaded with talent, depth and, at least on paper, senior leadership to carry the team, the Aggies are surprisingly lacking significantly in mental toughness, the one common charactisic of any team that wins on the road.
No one knows what bus the team stepped off of before they laid an egg in Stockton, getting waxed and polished by the UoP Tigers. It was a different bus in UCI, but when the chips were down, it was the same result, a road loss and more questions. We've had these questions before, but no one wants to accept the answers the Aggies are giving us. Maybe it's time to open the blinds and look this thing full in the face.
I can only comment on the end of the game, supplemented by the box score stats, because prior commitments kept me from the game until the final 3 minutes plus OT.
The game seemed to be an odd, mismatched collection of spectacular plays interspersed with head-slapping mistakes that Homer Simpson couldn't do justice to. Without some real gutty plays (Brown's drive and free throw) and timely shots (TJ), the Aggies never would have been in contention at the end and in OT. But on the other hand, without all the unforced turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch, UCI's last second shot would have been pointless.
In years past I know that Larry Eustachy had the ablity to motivate some of his best players to reach for their potential. He challenged players like Corwin Woodard and Marcus Saxon, and they responded, carrying the team to victories with their elevated play, especially on the road. Well, it's time for Stew and Desmond to have one of those chats. Penigar is easily the most talented player in the Big West. His play on the road is a real head-scratcher, though, and it's costing his team games. We can't have one senior show up and play tough like Toraino Johnson (18 points, 7-9 shooting) and then have another senior (DP) sleeping on the bus (8 points, 3-12 shooting).
The Aggies shot an impressive 48% as a team, but it was their 16 turnovers that cost them. How many trips down the stretch did they fail to even get a shot off? Carelessness with the ball when the game is on the line is typically fatal, and UCI didn't disappoint thier fans in taking advantage.
Bright spots? Toraino Johnson carried the team in scoring, drilling critical threes late to keep the Aggies in contention. Spencer Nelson is proving to be our most consistant player as he posted yet another double-double before fouling out very early in OT. Besides that, there's very little positive you can take from a loss when the win was there for the taking.
Tighten your seat belts, Aggie fans. With this team it's going to be a long and bumpy ride when we hit the road. I don't even want to hear the childish "Wait 'till we get you in our house" garbage. Good teams go on the road and win. Period. (ask BYU) Average teams can still win at home, but lack the talent or toughness required to win while away. I don't want call this team "average" just yet, but the evidence is mounting.
Can the Aggies put a top-to-bottom road game together this Saturday vs. a struggling Long Beach?