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Improved offensive execution pushes No. 24 San Diego State past Washington

Dec 8, 2013, 5:27 PM EDT

thames Getty Images

Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim and in the mid-range game.

But that didn’t happen in the first half, as San Diego State failed to execute offensively and thus struggled with its shooting. As a team SDSU shot 29.7% from the field, 1-for-7 from three and just one of their eight made field goals was assisted, resulting in a 30-21 Husky lead at the break. It was obvious what Steve Fisher’s team needed to do in order to turn things around and to their credit the Aztecs put forth a far better offensive performance in the game’s final 20 minutes.

There was better spacing and passing (ten of their 15 made field goals were assisted), resulting in 60% shooting from the field and 1.36 points per possession. In the end that was enough to hold off Washington 70-63, with C.J. Wilcox scoring 17 to lead three Huskies in double figures. Xavier Thames, who was outstanding during last weekend’s Wooden Legacy, led the way with 19 points and Winston Shepard III added 17 (5-for-6 FT in the game’s final 39 seconds).

SDSU was once again impressive on the defensive end, tying a school record with 11 blocked shots (Skylar Spencer had five) and limiting Washington to 38.6% shooting from the field. By this point in time San Diego State’s ability on the defensive end is a “given,” in that on most nights it’s safe to assume that Fisher’s players will put forth the effort required to make things difficult for the opposition.

It’s on the offensive end where SDSU will determine its standing within the Mountain West. And the difference between merely contending and winning the conference will boil down to how the Aztecs go about finding shots.

If it turns into a “one-on-one” contest like the first half against Washington it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be able to contend with the top teams in the Mountain West. But if San Diego State uses efficient ball and player movement, that combined with their defensive execution should have the Aztecs right in the middle of things in conference play.

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