Well…that was frustrating.
The Hoyas fell to the SDSU Aztecs late last night in Anaheim to close out the Thanksgiving Day games. Rather than focus on the frustrating final score, I will try to highlight the positives that can be taken from last night’s game.
For the first 5-10 minutes of the first half both teams played well and were getting good looks at the basket. Aminu Mohammed made his presence felt early with a layup and then a three pointer assisted by Don Carey. BET MOP Dante Harris got started quickly as well with a pair of mid-range jump shots to tie the game at 9-9 with 16:03 left in the first half. Unfortunately, this momentum was slowed a bit by a pair of early foul calls and a turnover by Timothy Ighoefe. Despite a slow couple minutes, Dante and Aminu continued to get in the lane and make their shots, which culminated in a 21-17 point lead for the Hoyas with 9:46 to go in the first half. After a couple layups and free throws by the Aztecs, and what felt like the first of many lucky bounces 3 pointers for the Aztecs, the Hoyas found themselves down 21-24. Freshman center Ryan Mutombo came through with a well-timed jump shot, again assisted by Don Carey, brought the Hoyas back with in 1 at the 8:23 mark.
Thanks to some solid defense by the Hoyas they managed to stifle the Aztec offense for the next few possessions, but were unable to take advantage on the other end. After a Georgetown timeout, Dante again made another terrific jump shot that seemed to start a bit of momentum for the Hoyas. With the score at 25-26 with 7:05 to go in the first half, Dante followed up a missed jump shot with an offensive rebound that eventually turned into a three pointer for Grad Transfer Kaiden Rice, giving the Hoyas a 28-26 point lead with 6:21 left in the half.
Despite some good defense from the Hoyas to close out the half, their struggles on the offensive end found them down 30-33 with just under 90 seconds left in the half. Dante Harris managed to salvage a slow end by putting up a nice layup with 30 seconds to go to bring the score to 32-37. In what felt like the theme of the night, the Aztecs then took the ball down the court, got harassed by good defense for 29 seconds but a prayer three pointer bounced in as the clock expired to take the deficit to 32-40 at halftime.
Thankfully the Hoyas made some good adjustments at halftime and came out ready to play in the second half. Despite the Aztecs pulling to a double-digit lead with 11:37 to go in the game, the Hoyas put up a fight that turned into an exciting 8- run over the next two minutes to bring the game to 53-57.
Before we get into how this game ended, I’d like to take a moment to applaud the Hoya Nation faithful in attendance at the game. People were loud and making our presence felt over the largely dominant SDSU crowd. A couple hand gestures by the team and Coach Ewing to pump up the crowd were a great sight and really helped energize the team. But alas…a series of unfortunate events then followed that torpedoed the Hoya’s momentum.
I don’t consider myself one to complain about officiating for the outcome of a game, but what followed was one of the more infuriating sights I’ve seen in a basketball game. After a hard fall by an Aztec on a layup attempt, Aztec HC Brian Dutcher asked the referees for a review that lasted what felt like 15 minutes, effectively killing all momentum gained by the Hoyas over the last couple minutes of gameplay. When play finally resumed, the Aztecs took it to the Hoyas for the last 9 minutes of the game. Although the Hoyas managed to cut the lead to 53-57, the Aztecs held the Hoyas to just three points the rest of the game.
The game was much closer then the final score indicates, and I think we saw some great signs from a young team playing on the road at a ridiculous tip-off time. That being said, it may be time to start considering adjustments for the rest of the season.
We saw a few minutes (2) of a small ball lineup featuring sophomore Collin Holloway at the 5, but not enough to really see if it was effective. We’re only four games in, but right now the 5 position is the Achilles heel of this team. As we get closer to conference play and the competition gets better, Coach Ewing and Co. are going to need to find ways to help put our centers in better positions to succeed, which may have to involve doing more small ball lineups.
Next up the Hoyas have a quick turnaround and need to prepare for a hungry Saint Joseph’s team tonight at 9 ET, which features former Hoya Hoops alum Reggie Cameron on their coaching staff.
Happy Thanksgiving Hoya Nation, lets get ready for another opportunity to get better tonight.