In the end, I believe it turned out to be a game of patience and defense. When the Aggies went into their 3/4 zone press, it created turneovers and scores, allowing them to build a lead, but more than once Long Beach strung possesions together to disolve the lead almost as fast as it appeared. LBSU took the lead on such a run in the 2nd half, inspiring Stew to take a time out to get things back in order. The results were good.
As time began to be a factor, the Aggies had worked their way out to a 10 point lead. Long beach answered with a 3-pointer and the game seemed to turn in their favor. I remember thinking, "oh no, not another run." It was Mark Brown, who I believe was scoreless at that point, who drilled what Al Lewis called a "looong three!" and broke the will and spirit of the Beach. It was going through the motions from there on out.
Patience? Yes, well that was witnessed at the foul line. The Aggies were unable to create good scoring chances throughout the night. They were, however, able to get to the line repeatedly where they converted 85% (22-26). I read somewhere (AP?) that the Aggies only scored 8 field goals in the 2nd half, getting the rest of their scoring at the line. It takes patience and maturity to accept that and to go post a W with it. In previous losses, the Aggies have failed to convert important trips to the line down the stretch. Against the Beach they were up to the task. Aggies win, 63-55.
I want to talk about Toraino Johnson. With his unorthodox shooting style and being a tad small at the 3, most fans, including myself, tend to look past him as a steady contributor, but it's time to ante up and give him his due. Of the 4 seniors, no one has come ready to play more than TJ. He efforts on both sides of the ball have been the difference in several games, and the Long Beach game was one of them. He led the Aggies with 14 points with 6-7 shooting, grabbed 4 boards and had an assist in his 31 minutes.
With the depth of this team, when someone is getting >30 minutes, I think it speaks VERY loudly as to what Stew thinks of their play. The only person with more minutes (35) was Mark Brown. This was an uncharacteristically low assist game for the Aggies. We had both 10 assists and 10 turnovers, but I think the trips to the line, in the 2nd half especially, greatly reduced our assist totals. I find it interesting what a clutch shooter Mark Brown has become. He's been ice at the line late in close games, and when the Beach tried to spark their late run, he poured a 3-point bucket of ice water all over it.
Spencer Nelson also chipped in with 31 minutes. He scored 11 (4-6) and had 5 boards with 2 assists. It's hard to see his excitement through the radio, but his consistancy in the Box Score is getting *my* attention. Between Nelson, Johnson and Brown, I feel that if we could get just one more player to join them, to step up and play their game consistantly, we would be almost impossible to beat for the rest of BW play.
Harris had 8 points and 3 boards in just 19 minutes. I don't have the stats, but he's been averaging near double-digit points over the last 2 weeks. That's really nice production off the bench, and it comes with his good post defense. It's nice to see a Freshman contribute like this, though I hate to lay that kind of responsibility on him with such a deep, experienced team.
The call goes out to Ross, Butler, Puzey and Penigar. One of these guys needs to step up and deliver, night-in and night-out, home and away, to make this team great. Most of these guys are always solid on D, but their disappearing O makes it tough for the team to adjust and find scoring from game to game. Who's going to offer themself as the missing peice of this puzzle?