NCAA opponent San Diego State praises Wolfpack

San Diego State coach Fisher lauds N.C. State

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2012 

— San Diego State coach Steve Fisher already appears to have a pretty good handle on N.C. State.

The Aztecs (26-7) will face the Wolfpack on Friday in their NCAA tournament opener, and Fisher said Monday he had watched three full videos and other highlights of the Pack. Then again, asked if the Wolfpack (22-12) reminded him of any team his played this season, Fisher was a bit stumped.

“Good question,” he said during a news conference. “They’ve got size and strength a little like New Mexico. What I worry about is how we will guard them inside, and they go inside a lot.”

Fisher praised Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie, saying, “He had a not-so-good freshman year but is having an All-American type sophomore year.”

Fisher noted center Richard Howell once was a 300-pounder but now has shed 30 pounds, noting, “He’s a beast inside.”

But it’s the Pack’s transition game that also has the Aztecs’ attention. N.C. State likes to run when it can, and sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown might be playing his best basketball of the season.

Aztecs won’t run wild

Fisher said the Aztecs, who will making their third straight NCAA appearance, also would look to push the ball but must do it selectively.

“We’ve got to run with intelligence, got to run when the opportunity presents itself,” he said. “But we can’t just run, run, run.

“We have to be sure we don’t have live-ball turnovers or take quick, bad shots that allows them to run because they’re very good in transition.”

The Aztecs are the sixth seed in the Midwest Region, yet the 11th-seeded Wolfpack is a betting favorite of some oddsmakers for the game in Columbus, Ohio. If that upsets some of the San Diego State players, they’re not letting on.

“We’re used to it,” said junior guard Chase Tapley, a three-year starter. “People miss what we’ve done here the last four or five years. We keep proving people wrong.”

Coming off a loss

The Aztecs, who won a school-record 34 games last season, reached the championship game of the Mountain West Conference on Saturday and were seeking a third straight tournament title. Tapley had 25 points, and 6-5 sophomore Jamaal Franklin – the conference player of the year – closed with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as New Mexico won 68-59.

The Aztecs, despite the loss, expected another NCAA bid. But like the Wolfpack, they had to wait through most of the CBS selection show Sunday to finally see their name go on the board. They quickly noticed on the telecast how the Wolfpack players wildly celebrated when NCSU was picked to fill the final slot.

“If they were honest they were probably saying ‘NIT-bound,’ ” Fisher said of the final tense moments for the Pack. “When they saw their name, they were euphoric, and I don’t blame them. So both of us are excited to be in the tournament.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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