Look man, what do you want from me here? Would you like me to break down the deficiencies, misplays and tactical errors that led to the Aztecs’ 90-64 loss to No. 1 Duke in the opening round of the Maui Invitational? Why?
That would be a little like picking apart the structural deficiencies of a really nice sports car that just got demolished by a BNSF freight train. If you don’t want your ride to get wrecked, keep it off the damn tracks. But with the Aztecs in harm’s way amid the deepest Maui field ever, here we are.
Duke, as they say, is Duke —but this year’s freshman-laden squad is extremely Duke, save for two big differences:
- They amazingly don’t have anyone on the roster who stands out as extremely punchable.
- They somehow possess more raw talent and offensive firepower than we’re used to seeing. From Duke.
Barring injury or major upset, the Blue Devils are probably going to cruise to the National Championship in March. Coach K’s guys started their season by pummeling Kentucky by 34 points. Let it be known, for the record, that the Duke Blue Devils did not beat the Aztecs by that many points (SUCK IT, KENTUCKY), nor did they win wire-to-wire.
I CAME WITH THE RECEIPTS, FOLKS:
From there, things went pretty much how you were expecting they would go.
The Aztecs, to their credit, played hard and even did some of the things they were trying to do early on.
SDSU got three Duke starters, including annoyingly good freshman forward Zion Williamson and annoyingly good freshman forward Cameron Reddish, into first half foul trouble. Trouble is, literally every scholarship player on Duke is probably one of the 20 best players the Aztecs will see all season.
SDSU defended hard (Jeremy Hemsley and Jordan Schakel were particularly dogged), disrupting passing lanes and forced Duke into relying on perimeter shooting. That seemed like a good plan until the Blue Devils nailed 6 their first 7 3-pointers, and 9-of-17 in the first half. Annoyingly good freshman forward RJ Barrett drained three of those, and finished with a game-high 20 points.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs struggled to 35 percent shooting, missing three layups in the game’s opening minutes and 15 of the 21 three pointers they were forced into foisting overall. Devin Watson had three of the makes, finishing with a team-high 15 points.
The offensive woes are frustrating because, had SDSU just shot a little better, they could have … I don’t know … lost by 15?
The second half went …
Like that. It went like that.
I’m not going to strain credulity by saying this had a huge bearing on the final outcome, but a horrid foul call probably ushered in the blowout sooner than it should have. Duke led 42-31 with 1:08 left before halftime, but Aztecs corralled a rebound after miss with a chance to cut the lead to single-digits.
Unfortunately, Duke’s Antonio Vrankovic jumped after the rebound while bring boxed out thiccly (but legally) by Matt Mitchell. He went down on the play and drew the whistle.
Again, it’s not like the Aztecs pull the stunning upset if the ref swallows his whistle there. But dammit, if the Aztecs had kept it close at the half and maybe a little bit into the second half, people all over the country would have been quote Tweeting the score with that eyeballs emoji. It would have been an exciting 25-30 minutes of national glory and this terrible call robbed us of that!
Best Some of Aztecs Twitter
What’s Next for the Basketball Tecs
Aztecs now have to play Xavier tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. The Musketeers of the Big East just finished taking No. 8 Auburn to overtime so this ain’t going to be easy, either.
But at least it’s just a good basketball team and not an on-rushing freight train this time.