The San Diego Toreros wrapped up play in the Wooden Legacy on Sunday after a full week of games. After defeating Western Michigan in a non-bracketed game in the Jenny Craig Pavilion, the action moved to Cal State Fullerton and the Honda Center in Anaheim where the Toreros went 1-2 with a win over Princeton sandwiched between losses to Xavier and Western Michigan in a rematch from earlier in the week.
Overall it was a positive week as the Toreros picked up two good wins and had two hard-fought losses. San Diego is still looking for a signature win however, and they still have been unable to close out a solid to get one. Like their earlier loss to Boise State, the Toreros were right there in a fight with a quality Xavier team until they faded late. And their tough two-point loss to Western Michigan after blowing a late lead cancels out their good win over the 2013-14 MAC Champions from earlier in the week.
The win over the Broncos looked like it could be a good win going forward, but it was unfortunate the way the schedule played out in the bracket that Toreros had to survive them again on Sunday and couldn’t pull it off. Xavier is not a bad loss as they Toreros had no answer for star post player Matt Stainbrook. The Princeton win was a nice way to salvage the week, but the Tigers are not as highly regarded an Ivy League team as they are some years.
DUDA IS BACK
After a very slow start to the season including missing a game due to plantar fasciitis, Duda Sanadze looked healthy and like his old self this past week. He is a key cog of the Toreros offense, and they needed to get him going. He had double-digit scoring efforts in two of the four games last week, and as he shakes off the rust he should be just fine. This is good news for the Toreros as they could not afford to be without him at full strength for long.
JACOBS COOLING OFF
Unfortunately just as the Toreros have gotten Sanadze going, breakout star Thomas Jacobs appears to be stumbling. After a double-double in the win over Western Michigan as he continued his hot start, he went quiet in the final three games of the week. With just 13 points and 9 rebounds in those three games, his numbers combined barely matched the totals he was putting up almost every game earlier this season. The Toreros lack consistent options behind their stars right now, so hopefully this trend doesn’t continue for Jacobs. They need his ability in the frontcourt as a versatile forward.
KOK DEVELOPING INTO A MORE VERSATILE WEAPON
After Kok’s career-high 15 points in the win over Western Michigan, there was hope he was finally putting things together on the offensive end. He was quiet against Xavier and Princeton, but he did put up another 15 points in the second game against the Broncos. Two offensive performances like that in one week from Kok is a great sign, even if they came against only one opponent.
Kok is still a defensive force as he now has a ridiculous 21 blocks in just seven games. If he can at least raise his scoring and rebounding numbers to average levels for a big man of his size, the Toreros will benefit greatly from that. With Jacobs and Brandon Perry struggling, they need that from him now more than ever.
GROWING PAINS FOR PERRY
Speaking of Brandon Perry, the man who was supposed to be the answer at center for the Toreros has not lived up to the billing quite yet. Perry still hasn’t scored more than 5 points in a game, and he did not appear in two games last week while putting up just 8 points and 2 rebounds in the other two contests.
Perry is a big and powerful inside presence who has proven at Cal State Northridge and in high school that he can be the big man the Toreros need. But he hasn’t been able to get it going yet, and he’s seeing less and less chances to prove himself. He can still get it going, but having yet another key piece that is sluggish here in the early going is just not something the Toreros need right now.
ANDERSON MAKING HEADLINES
Anderson is already the career assists leader for San Diego, and he is on a torrid pace this year. He now has 60 assists through just seven games, and Sports Illustrated so far has been right on the money when they projected him to lead the nation in that category.
Even more positive has been his improved scoring. Anderson has double-digit points in every game this season except one, and that game was the Western Michigan game where he dished out a season-high 12 assists and the Toreros won. Anderson’s lack of scoring ability held him back in the past, but he made up for it with his playmaking ability. Now that he is bringing both to the table, he’s a very dangerous weapon. His success and the hot shooting of Johnny Dee are a big reason why the Toreros have done okay so far despite the duo not having a ton of support.
GOT TO WIN SOME BIG GAMES
So far, the season has gone according to plan for the Toreros. They have won every game they should have, and they have lost every game they were probably going to lose. What’s unfortunate is they have squandered good opportunities to get some marquee wins heading into a tough portion of their schedule.
Boise State and Xavier were winnable games. The second Western Michigan game was a needed win to validate their win over the Broncos earlier in the week. And in all three, they had a chance to pull it off but faded late. With no real marquee wins yet, they can’t afford to be dropping winnable games.
They need to start slamming the door on some bigger opponents to make an impact and build momentum. Because eventually they will need to be winning this big games when they hit WCC play and games like BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and San Francisco are looming among others.
The Toreros are very fortunate that they have won the games they should have so far, because they now enter a brutal three game stretch that could mean a losing streak is ahead. Their next three games are #15 San Diego State, at #23 UCLA, and at mid-major power UC Santa Barbara. They could be very outmatched in every game, and it could get ugly if they’re not playing well.
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The Western Michigan loss was unfortunate, because it could easily spiral into a four-game losing streak that drops the Toreros under .500 for the first time since they opened the season 0-1 losing to Boise State. Plus with opportunities for marquee wins being rare in WCC play, this is one of their only chances to make a statement against some big name opponents.
For the Toreros, the time is now to either start to get hot and make this a real breakout year, or fade into the middle tier of WCC teams once again.