The Viejas Arena lights were still dimmed for pregame festivities, and I was certain SDSU was about to get run out of the damn building. It wasn’t just that Nevada is arguably the conference’s best team (although it is) or the fact that the Aztecs were coming off an embarrassing, listless loss at San Jose State (although they were).
It was also the body language of the players.
As Slash’s opening riff on “Welcome to the Jungle” sounded and the video board cut to the scene in the tunnel outside the Aztecs locker room, the usual bouncy exuberance was missing. Rather than getting amped to someone’s fiery oration, the players looked like weary commuters at a bus stop. During the introduction of starters, there was no joyful dancing – a fact noted by my wife who greatly enjoys such things (she thinks Dakarai Allen has by far the best moves, for the record).
I’m glad to say now, in the wake of SDSU’s 70-56 dismantling of the Wolf Pack, that I had misread the situation. Apparently they weren’t feeling too listless to dance. Maybe they were actually just too pissed.
Pissed can give you the kind of hard-guarding nastiness needed to hold a quality opponent to under 30 percent shooting.
Pissed helps you mix it up in the paint, like Malik Pope did in notching his first double-double of the season.
Pissed can give you the kind of energy that Allen showed in the first half as he finished off a fast break dunk, charged back the other way to block a shot and then raced all the way back to follow a missed transition layup (the putback was waved off because of a foul call, but who cares – it was dope).
Apparently, pissed can lead to this:
And, my god, this:
Maybe I’m misjudging body language for the second time today. It’s possible the Aztecs players had other reasons to forgo their usual pregame merriment (a pregame sermon by the preacher from “Footloose”?), but I’m sticking with the pissed narrative
Who knows, if they can play pissed for three straight days in March, we might get to see some dancing after all.
Now that I’ve said all that …
Yeah. Maybe let’s not jump to any conclusions just yet.
Congratulations to Trey Kell, who led the Aztecs with 17 points and went over 1,000 for his career. Before it’s all said and done, he’s got a pretty good shot at breaking into the school’s Top 5 and passing the likes of Winston Shepard and Chase Tapley. That’s really cool!
It seems important to me that Kell’s strong game coincided with him attempting only two 3s. The Aztecs are 4-7 this season when Kell attempts five or more 3s, which I don’t wish to come off as a knock; I think that stat says as much about team’s lack of offensive consistency than Trey’s.
It’s always better when he doesn’t feel the need to chuck.
This afternoon, he clearly didn’t as the scoring came from everywhere. Pope (12 points) was feeling his rainbow mid-range jumper early. Jeremy Hemsley (15 points) was a step too fast for Nevada and got to the rim. Matt Shrigley (10 points) drained a couple of key 3s that built the substantial cushion. Zylan Cheatham even dunked twice.
Man, remember when the Aztecs dunking was a thing?
I miss that thing.
Speaking of dunking.
Check out second dude from the right on the Nevada bench. Looks like a damn goldendoodle spotting a chipmunk.