After a road loss at Wyoming, how would San Diego State respond? They answered the question with another gutty win that has become the trademark of the Aztecs this season. San Diego State swept the season series with Air Force by winning 64-56 in front of another soldout crowd at Viejas Arena.
It is rarely easy to win in the Mountain West, and tonight was no exception. Air Force can be a frustrating team for a long, athletic, defensive-minded team like the Aztecs. When faced with a slow pace and zone defense, some of the advantages San Diego State counts on are diminished. A grind it out half-court game is not what the Aztecs enjoy, but they had enough talent and persistence to prevail.
For the second game in a row, someone other than Xavier Thames led the team in scoring. Tonight was Winston Shepard's turn. Shepard had just two points in the first half, but he was a big part of the second-half rally, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the last eight minutes of play.
Basketball is a game of runs. Air Force had a 9-0 run in the first half to go up 17-12. The Aztecs needed a 10-0 run of their own to take the lead and go into halftime with a one-point advantage, 24-23. A 9-0 second-half run put the Aztecs up 53-40 with 5:20 remaining. A pesky Air Force team would not give up and climbed back to within four points with 2:31 left in the game. The Aztecs made enough shots and free throws down the stretch to seal the eight-point win.
Dwayne Polee II was a strong contributor off the bench once again. After scoring 15 points on Tuesday against Wyoming, Polee came up big with 13 points and five rebounds against Air Force. Thames scored 13 points as well. Josh Davis added seven points and 10 rebounds.
San Diego State held Air Force to just 37.5% field goal shooting and 25% on three pointers. The Aztecs also made 10 more free throws than Air Force attempted. The "make more free throws than the opponent takes" is another signature of winning Aztecs basketball.
Next up the Aztecs host Utah State on Tuesday, February 18 at 8 pm Pacific.