Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
San Diego State as good as advertised

By Dana O'Neil

SAN DIEGO -- The play-by-play couldn’t do it justice.

In the bland vernacular of the stat sheet, it read simply:

Good layup by Gay, D.J.

Miss jumper by Clyburn, Will.

Block by Carlwell, Brian.

Rebound defensive by White, Billy.

Good layup by White, Billy.

In reality, it was wow, oh my, dear Lord, a 12-second offense-to-defense-to-offense assault that left the San Diego State home crowd agog and summarized what the Aztecs are all about.

For the doubters who still believe San Diego State is merely a top-5 team by default, we present Gay to Carlwell to White as your basketball version of Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

BYU may have The Jimmer but the Aztecs have The Team, a roster as complete and built for a long run as any in the country.

Yes the opponent, er victim, of this particular 85-53 assault was Utah, a team in which maybe two guys are old enough to shave (there are 10 freshmen and sophomores on the roster). That, however, doesn’t mean what we saw wasn’t real.

San Diego State is real.

The Aztecs were without starter Chase Tapley (ankle) and sub Tim Shelton (foot) and still played with a fluidity and ease, dishing and dunking like a collegiate version of the Globetrotters.

“That was good, really good,’’ SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. “We were dictating the pace, flow, getting runouts and dunks, making 3-pointers. We were very good. We can’t play that way all the time, but we’re good enough to have stretches like that.’’

We have come to the portion of the schedule in which we start to look for a team’s Achilles' heel, to discover the weakness that will render them weak come NCAA tournament time.

Still searching for that weakness here in Southern California.

In Gay, the Aztecs have a dynamic and contentedly unselfish point guard. White and Malcolm Thomas, with Carlwell off the bench, own the inside and the boards.

James Rahon can’t be left alone behind the arc and Kawhi Leonard is the one ingredient virtually every Final Four team has had of late -- a future NBA lottery pick.

And then there’s the added bonus that this team is built on defense, and actually likes it, in fact. SDSU ranks 11th in the nation in scoring defense and 16th in field-goal percentage defense. In its past six games, the Aztecs are allowing a ridiculously stingy 55 points per game.

Five less and San Diego State would be indulging in curly fry overload.

The student section is awarded free curly fries whenever the Aztecs hold an opponent under 50 points.

“I said, ‘We can’t let them get seven points in seven minutes,’’ Carlwell said. “We have to get them the curly fries. We’ve had games where we held them to 53 and I get home and my boys call me and they’re mad. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it happen this time.’’

The fast-food decadence award might be the only place the Aztecs failed on this night.