The San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team started the second round of Mountain West Conference games with a resounding 75-53 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs at Viejas Arena.
With the win, SDSU moves to 18-5 on the season and 6-3 in conference. The Bulldogs meanwhile dropped to 8-14 with a 2-7 record in the Mountain West.
The Aztecs beat the Bulldogs behind a balanced offensive attack and suffocating defense. James Rahon and Jamaal Franklin each scored 14 points, while Winston Shepard came off the bench to score 10.
Chase Tapley added nine points despite a scary moment late in the first half, Tapley was fouled hard on a floater in the lane, and appeared to land on his already injured wrist. He stayed on the floor for a while, and then grimaced in pain throughout the ensuing timeout as the team trainer checked his wrist. He did return to the game to hit 1-of-2 free throws, and played 12 minutes in the second half with two points, two assists and two rebounds in the second period.
Dwayne Polee II, who has played sparingly this season, added eight points in just 10 minutes. He hit two consecutive 3-pointers in the second half, and then ignited the crowd with a two-hand alley-oop dunk on a pass from Chase Tapley.
Fourteen different players played for the Aztecs and eleven players scored at least one point.
The game was fairly close for the first twenty minutes, as the Bulldogs scored the last four points of the first half to pull within eight points at halftime. Fresno State’s Kevin Foster made a layup to open the second half scoring and the Bulldogs had pulled within six.
But the Aztecs held the Bulldogs scoreless over the next five minutes and went on a 13-0 run to take a commanding 38-19 lead. With nine minutes left, the lead swelled all the way to 29 at 57-28.
“I thought … that our defense was front and center,” San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said in the post game press conference. “I thought we had great energy but really good and smart defensive play.”
The win was especially important for the Aztecs as they head into the toughest two-game stretch on their schedule. Next Wednesday they travel to Colorado State’s Moby Arena, where the Rams have yet to lose this season. They then travel to Las Vegas to take on UNLV, the team that beat them by seven earlier this season in San Diego.
It was also an encouraging sign to see junior point guard Xavier Thames back on the court for the Aztecs after missing the last two games with a nagging back injury.
“It feels good to be back out there with my teammates,” Thames said. “During the game I did not feel any pain so that is really good.”
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels beat the New Mexico Lobos 64-55, to drop the Lobos to 20-4 overall and 7-2 in conference. SDSU now trails New Mexico by one game, and trails Colorado State by half a game.
Jamaal Franklin became the 28th player in school history to record 1,000 career points and the 11th player in school history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
Walk-on players Aaron Douglas, Jeremy Castleberry and Ryan Staten saw their first action in conference play. Narbeh Ebrahimian played for the second time. Staten scored two points on 1-of-2 shooting.