The Aggie men's basketball team defeated Fresno State yesterday in what turned out to be a very, very entertaining quarterfinal day at the WAC tournament. The Aggies' 65-49 victory was the largest margin of the day as there were two seed-based upsets, one true upset and one hell of a scare for top ranked Nevada. The seed-based upsets were 5-seed Louisiana Tech toppling 4-seed Utah State 72-70. This wasn't really a surprise to anyone that's been following WAC basketball this season. The Bulldogs were a team that we've publicly stated was one that a top-half of the WAC team would not want to face in the first round. They'll now take on top seed Nevada which got quite the game from San Jose State, much to the surprise of many (including ourselves). The game was a stink bomb through the first 20 minutes as the Spartans held a slim 14-13 (yes, you read that correctly) lead over the Wolf Pack at halftime. SJSU tied the record for the fewest points allowed in a half of WAC tournament basketball and if your even remotely decent at math, you know that Nevada was just one point shy of tying that record. The turning point of the game came in the second half when SJSU was up by nine and was called for a flagrant foul. Deonte Burton made it a five-point error for the Spartans and all momentum shifted in the game. That woke up the Pack, they went on to take the lead and didn't relinquish the rest of the game. The Spartans didn't back down but they just couldn't hit enough shots down the stretch and eventually lost 54-44.
The first game of the day pitted 6-seed Hawai'i against 3-seed Idaho. The Warriors played without Zane Johnson who did not make the trip due to illness. Most people including ourselves did not feel that Hawai'i could advance without their top playing but the Warriors dug deep and pulled off a thrilling 72-70 win to keep Idaho from reaching the semifinals. The Aggies will take on the Warriors tonight at 7:00 p.m. in a game that should be very entertaining.
The Aggies defeated Hawai'i by 42 the last time these two teams met but that really has no bearing on today's game. What we do think has bearing on this game is the fact that ever since the midway point of the second half of the Aggies' game against Hawai'i in Honolulu, the Aggies have manhandled Hawai'i, the coaching staff and players figured something out in how to attack Hawai'i and it resulted in them nearly stealing a victory in Honolulu after falling behind big and then the 42-point drubbing in Las Cruces a couple weeks ago.
The strategy for the Aggies should be pretty clear, attack Vander Joaquim, get him in foul trouble early, attack Joston Thomas and get him in foul trouble early and then take your chances with everyone else. Shaq Stokes is a talented freshman guard for Hawai'i and started in place of Johnson yesterday and scored 17 points, however, the Aggies should be able to bother him defensively. Jeremiah Ostrowski is a fantastic point guard for UH but he's not a threat to score a ton of points. His season high this year is 15 against Hawai'i but his season average is just four points per game. Where he excels is distribution of the basketball to his teammates averaging 6.7 assists per game. That's why getting Joaquim and Thomas in foul trouble is so important in attacking Hawai'i. Without Zane Johnson as a primary three point scorer, the Warriors have to rely on taking the ball inside. Hawai'i hit just two three pointers yesterday and only attempted 10 total.
This is a game that the Aggies should win but it's also a game that the Aggies cannot take lightly and we don't think they will. The team is locked in and focused much like the 2009-10 team was and defensively the team is playing lights out. The 49 points allowed in yesterday's quarterfinal game not only tied a season low for points allowed but it was also the fewest points any Aggie team has ever allowed in a WAC tournament game and the Aggies have had the luxury of playing some much worse teams than the one they faced yesterday.
Today's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MT) tipoff can can be seen in New Mexico on Comcast (check your local listings) and will also be available online streaming via ESPN3.com
Aggie Men's Basketball
The Associated Press recaps the Aggies' win.
Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal recaps the Aggies' win.
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News recaps the Aggies' win..
Jason Groves also blogs his preview.
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News talks about the future of the WAC tournament in Las Vegas.
The Kent State athletic website previews the weekend series.
The Arizona athletic website previews the Diamond Devil Invitational.
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