San Diego State made it 41 straight wins against teams from California as they cruised to a 82-67 victory over Fresno State.
This time of year, every game feels like a must win. For the No. 13 Aztecs (25-3, 14-2 MW), it means taking one game at a time, not overlooking anyone, and finishing strong. In other words, just win. On a day in which six teams ranked higher than the Aztecs lost, San Diego State took care of business and looked good doing it.
Going into the game, Fresno State was the hottest team in the Mountain West, winning seven of their last eight games after starting conference play winning just one of their first eight games. Now they sit at 8-9 in conference. When you dig a little deeper though, you'll see that the Bulldogs are 0-5 against the top three teams in conference (San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV). So while they are much improved, Fresno State still has some work to do.
Xavier Thames regained his scoring touch and led the Aztecs with 22 points and six rebounds. His three pointer going into halftime gave the Aztecs a 40-35 lead. Aqeel Quinn gave the Aztecs a big, first half lift with 11 points, including 3-for-3 on three-point shots. Quinn finished with a career-high 17 points and six rebounds.
The Aztecs have had games with none or few three pointers. Tonight they had nine. The worry going in was that Fresno State would be hot from beyond the arc. When they played the Aztecs in San Diego, the Bulldogs had six three pointers in the first half. Tonight they were just 4-of-12 on three-point attempts.
Scoring has not been a problem in the last two games for San Diego State. They have scored at least 40 points in each half of the last two games. Against Fresno State they shot 60 percent from the field and made 60 percent of their three-point shots.
Foul trouble was a bit of an issue for both teams. Josh Davis of the Aztecs picked up two fouls in less than four minutes. He sat on the bench for awhile before re-entering the game and picking up his third foul with 6:05 remaining in the first half. Bulldogs leading scorer Tyler Johnson had one foul in the first half but picked up his fourth foul with 12:07 to play in the game. So even though the Aztecs held a 13 point lead, he was sent to the bench. He finished with 18 points.
Marvelle Harris had 17 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs as a follow-up performance to his 26 point effort against Boise State on Wednesday. Winston Shepard was in double figures once again for the Aztecs, scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds.
Fresno State was hoping to beat a ranked team for the first time since 2002. They filled the Save Mart Center with 14,801 fans, more than twice their normal attendance. Part of the draw was a celebration for former player and coach Jerry Tarkanian, who was honored at halftime. It didn't hurt that fans could get free tickets online.
The Aztecs travel to Las Vegas to take on UNLV on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 pm PT. The Bulldogs play their final conference game on Saturday at San Jose State at 7 pm PT.