There's just something about that feeling of pure hate when you see that opposing team even warming up. It's like a whole new reminder of what you despise when you finally see them in person. Then it seems like pretty much everything they do just pisses you off more.
But a 19-5 lead can quickly turn all anger into joy, and that's what Utah State built early against New Mexico State. Then things suddenly took a swing into NMSU's favor, and it seemed to coincide with when Sim Bhullar went to the bench. After Jarred Shaw established early on that he was going to attack Bhullar down low and make him respect the mid-range jumper as well, Bhullar was largely ineffective. Shaw's mobility was the biggest advantage (outside of actual talent) that he had over Bhullar, and that was the difference maker in the paint.
Really outside of that run NMSU made following the 19-5 lead and the last minute of the second half, the Good Aggies never really seemed to lack total control of this game. They moved the ball well, shot well, limited turnovers, were aggressive while staying out of foul trouble... Pretty much everything a team needs to do to win against a bigger, faster opponent.
I only say "pretty much" because of how bad that last minute of play was for USU. I can't imagine managing that all any worse than they did. Tenale Roland looked like he was completely unaware of the 10-second rule, dribbling backwards more often than forward. And the team as a whole was way too content to just hold on to the ball in the face of a trap. And then the one time they get it up court, it ends up in the hands of Jordan Stone, sending him to the free throw line for the front-end of a 1-and-1 (which you could guess how that one ended up).
Still, good guys hold on for a good win. And it was by doing a whole lot of things well that they are going to need to do well to pull off any upsets come WAC Tournament time, or to even roll down to that hellhole down south and bring home a win.
Twas a thing of beauty out there. As much as that little band in the corner tried to suck energy out of the crowd with at 15-minute long slow, bluesy lullaby, once Utah State took that court, the place was ready to rock.
The signs were cool and the little 3-pointer papers passed out made for a pretty excellent visual when the Aggies hit a deep ball.
Then there was the butcher paper... I'll admit, I was a skeptic of it. Due largely in part to how bad ass and time-honored that slow clap is at this point. But when the crowd went apeshit and tore up that paper, that was cool as freaking hell!!! I've always been a believer that little bits of excitement in pregame like that can give an extra shot of adrenaline to players, and I think that hot start is at least somewhat related to that.
Hell yes to everyone there!
- Outside of missing that free throw late in the game, Jordan Stone was pretty damn excellent out there Saturday. For a guy who has been undersized freaking NEVER, he answered the call against Bhullar very well. I'll take six points and seven rebounds from Stone any day. I was a critic early on, but the dude really is coming around to be a decent basketball player now.
- Ben Clifford apparently only knows how to go full speed, and he made a whole lot happen early in the second half because of that. The risk with that though was that Clifford was already in foul trouble in the first half. The officiating crew had to have felt one or two of those first half fouls were a little bit weak, because they sure let him go at it defensively in the second half. He only shot 1-4, but he did a little bit of everything out there.
- Spencer Butterfield couldn't be stopped early on, scoring 15 points in the first 14 minutes of the game. He only scored once more after that, but it looked like he was made a focal point of the NMSU defense after his fast start. Shaw, Davis, and even Roland looked to benefit off of that. 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, one block, and one steal if you need him. Killer game for him.
- Since breaking through that freshman wall, Marcel Davis has been pleasantly consistent. He's also finding new ways to score and looking better at finishing around the basket. And it looks now like his teammates know when to expect a pretty pass from him as well!
- It took a while, but it's looking like Tenale Roland has finally found a bit of a comfort zone with shooting the ball. For the amount of decent looks from 3-point range that he gets, the team needs him to be hitting those with frequency. His handling of the ball against the NMSU press late in the game was one of the worst things I've ever seen, but he's slowly coming along in certain areas where the team needs him to excel.
- Only 11 total turnovers for USU, even with that high-pressure defense at the end... Pretty damn good lads! Add in 18 assists, and you've got a nice little formula for success there.
- Telling me before the game that Utah State would have more blocks in this game might have incited a reaction much like kind you'd see if you had just flirted with Tyrone Watson's girl at a party.
- Speaking of NMSU's shenanigans, how happy do you think Kentucky, Louisville, LSU and whoever else those big schools were to reportedly offer K.C. Ross-Miller a scholarship are feeling now? Not only has he been largely ineffective against the WAC, but he also is the kind of guy to start throwing things at opposing fans after a loss. Between little things like that a big things like beating the piss out of some kid, I'm baffled as to why New Mexico State fans are still trying to convince people their program has been cleaned up.
Player of the Game:Jarred Shaw
Total domination.That's the best way to describe Jarred Shaw in this game. He was mobile, he was aware, he was precise... He was all he needed to be and then some. It just looked he knew how to react to every play in the post. Given the scenario and the match-up he had to deal with, I dare say this was the single best performance from an Aggie this entire season.