With one home loss in Mountain West Conference play, the nationally-ranked San Diego St. Aztecs needed to hold serve at home against the visiting (and also nationally-ranked) New Mexico Lobos Saturday afternoon.
The Aztecs did that and more.
SDSU dominated on the offensive and defensive boards and forced 17 turnovers and managed 10 steals in defeating UNM 55-34. The Aztecs moved to 16-4 overall and 4-2 in the MWC, half a game behind the Lobos, who fell to 17-3 and 4-1 in conference.
"It's exciting. We needed that one," said Aztecs' Jamaal Franklin, who scored 10 points in the win. "It was a really big win and New Mexico is a really good team. Like Coach Fisher always stresses, you can't win this league if you don't win home games. I feel like this was a big home win."
The 34 points registered by New Mexico were the fewest for the program in almost 40 years - when UNM scored just 32 on Jan. 31, 1976, at Utah. The Lobos also shot an anemic 25 percent (11 of 44), their lowest mark since at least 1965.
"We weren't who we were," said UNM head coach Steve Alford said. "We didn't execute our offense. We really got dominated inside, which we thought would be our strength. They beat us points in the paint; they beat us on the glass. They took away just about everything that was our strength."
How bad was it? Consider:
"We just didn't execute," said UNM guard Hugh Greenwood. "They're not a great defensive team but they forced us to turn the ball over. We didn't rebound. We're at our best when we are rebounding and getting out and running."
The two teams battled evenly early on but the Aztecs used a 14-3 run to take a 21-9 lead on a Xavier Thames three-pointer with 9:19 left in the first half.
UNM managed to rally to cut to 25-19 but the Aztecs finished the half on an 8-0 run and led 33-19 halftime lead. New Mexico finished the half without a field goal in the final five minutes and had four possessions end with turnovers to end the half.
The Aztecs opened the second half on a 10-5 as UNM was never able to find any kind of offensive rhythm.
J.J. O'Brien led the Aztecs with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kendall Williams paced the Lobos with 14 points. Kirk and Greenwood each pulled down six rebounds to lead UNM.