Pressure–mainly that of the full court variety–got the best of De Anza men’s basketball in their 81-69 loss to Fresno City College on Nov. 29.
The game began 8-7 in favor of Fresno before De Anza subbed out starting point guard Isaac Acevado and center AJ Singh. Singh returned minutes later after an 11-5 run by Fresno.
De Anza struggled against Fresno’s full court press. Until late in the fourth quarter, Fresno defended De Anza players tightly on every inbound play, while keeping pressure up the court once the ball was inbounded.
“They’re No. 3 in the state for a reason…We had 13 turnovers in the first half; we average 13 a game,” Dons head coach Jason Damjanovic said.
Six first half turnovers were a direct result of the press, which gave Fresno the ball near De Anza’s basket repeatedly.
In the last minute of the first half, a controversial blocking foul gave Fresno two free throws.
Fresno inbounded the ball over the top of a De Anza double-team, and another De Anza player stepped into position to effectively take a charge one dribble after the catch.
Fresno was awarded a trip to the free throw line as the De Anza coaches and players contested the call to the referee.
At halftime, the score was 42-33 in favor of Fresno. De Anza was only outscored by three points in the second half.
De Anza guard Niles Malone often handled the ball and scored 12 points for the Dons.
“We knew they were coming out strong with the press,” Malone said. “Our goal was to kick it through (the press) and find the open man. They had a little bit more swagger than us. We just had to come out there more confident and aggressive.”
With six minutes left in the game, De Anza brought the score within seven, at 61-54. Fresno then immediately responded, scoring at their fastest rate of the game and adding 20 additional points to their total.
“69 points, that’s about 10 points under (our) average,” Damjanovic said. “We made two threes all night.”
Damjanovic noted that Fresno scored especially easily in the second half, and that their frequent substitutions allowed them to play with physicality at a fast pace.
“Their athleticism proved (to be) a problem for us; we weren’t able to get the passes we wanted and break down the press,” De Anza forward/center Nemanja Rajic said. “The two days before (the game), we worked on specific press breaks. Limit turnovers, take better shots, and it’s a close game.”
Guard Ahmad Young led De Anza in scoring with 15 points. He competed until the final buzzer, scoring a layup with contact after running the length of the court with less than five seconds left.
The Dons next home game is on Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. against Marin College.