With a dominating 75-50 win over San Jose State, the seventh ranked Aztecs are off to a 6-0 start in conference play for the first time in their 44-year Division I history and hold on to first place in the Mountain West. They extended their overall winning streak to 16 and their winning streak over California teams to 39.
The first half wasn't pretty, but the Aztecs haven't gotten to No. 7 in the polls based on their good looks. They have won by playing defense, getting rebounds and volume free throw shooting. Tonight was more of the same. The Aztecs shot just 29% from the field in the first half but held the Spartans to 21% shooting to take a 29-19 halftime lead. Xavier Thames led the way for San Diego State with 10 points. Josh Davis was well on his way to another double-digit rebounding game, grabbing eight boards in the first half. An early 11-2 run helped the Aztecs create separation in the scoring column.
Rashad Muhammad came off the bench to lead the Spartans with five points at the halfway mark. Jaleel Williams had three points on 1-for-10 shooting.
Early in the second half, San Jose State found a hole in the Aztecs defense as Jalen James made three consecutive layups. The 10 point halftime lead quickly shrunk to five points. But this only served to reawaken the Aztecs when they held a 35-30 lead.
Suddenly the Aztecs flipped a switch and were up 58-32, matching their 29 points from the first half with 8:36 still remaining in the second half. They continued to stretch the lead to 67-32 with a 32-2 run that put the game out of reach for the Spartans. The Aztecs shot 50% from the field in the second half to finish with 39% field goal shooting for the game. San Diego State was able to give good minutes to Dakarai Allen, D'Erryl Williams and James Johnson from the bench and go 11 players deep.
Today was Josh Davis' 23rd birthday. On the court, it was a good one. He recorded his 13th double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Thames led the Aztecs with 15 points. Winston Shepard had a good all-around performance with 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Skylar Spencer was effective down low, going 4-for-4 from the field and contributing 12 points.
While seventh ranked San Diego State is getting more of the national spotlight these days, they were still relegated to ESPN3 as far as media coverage of tonight's game. Maybe this is part of the explanation for why Thames was left off of the Wooden Award midseason list of 25 players. Only die-hard fans of San Diego State and those willing to stay up for a 10 pm ET or later tip-off when they are on TV are familiar enough with Thames to understand his impact.
But whether anyone is watching, the Aztecs continue to find success at home and on the road. Next up the Aztecs take on Utah State on Saturday, January 25 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. The Aggies are 10-1 at home this year and 109-11 in their last 120 home games.