SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego State Aztecs will be smarting for some time from their big loss at New Mexico, well aware that they have one more regular-season game against the Lobos and most likely another showdown in the Mountain West Conference tournament, as well.
The Aztecs (23-3, 12-2) are trying to focus on Tuesday night’s home game against last-place San Jose State. But they got a big reminder of Saturday night’s 58-44 loss to the Lobos when they dropped seven spots to No. 13 in the new Associated Press poll on Monday. New Mexico, which jumped into a share of the MWC lead with the Aztecs, rejoined the rankings at No. 25.
”They grabbed us by the throat and didn’t let go from start to finish,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said.
SDSU was overwhelmed by New Mexico power forward Cameron Bairstow, who scored 26 points. Star Aztecs guard Xavier Thames had an off night with only seven points.
”The New Mexico game was not one anybody who has an ounce of favoritism for the Aztecs wanted to see,” Fisher said. ”But it happened. We went in and got beat, beat soundly by a very good team who on that given night definitely was the better team. We don’t like the feeling; it did happen. We witnessed it, live and up front. We’ve been a program that said before, live but don’t forget. You’ve got to move forward and you’ve got to move forward quickly.”
San Jose State (7-19, 1-13) is coming off its only league win so far, a 66-64 victory at Nevada last Tuesday. SDSU beat the Spartans 75-50 at San Jose on Jan. 22.
”We need to get ourselves a victory and feel good about ourselves after a victory,” Fisher said. ”We’re pretty healthy. No excuses for what happened, and determined that we’ll win tomorrow.”
After Tuesday night, the Aztecs have games at Fresno State and at UNLV before finishing at home on March 8 against New Mexico.
Barring early upsets, the Aztecs and Lobos likely will meet in the conference tournament. The Lobos have eliminated the Aztecs from the conference tourney in consecutive seasons, including in the title game two years ago.
Fisher noted that the Lobos were the preseason pick to win their third straight MWC title, and the Lobos began the year in the Top 25 while the Aztecs didn’t. New Mexico was a No. 3 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament before losing its opening game to Harvard. SDSU was a No. 7 seed, beating Oklahoma before losing to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.
The Aztecs were done in Saturday night by allowing the Lobos to go on a 21-2 run in the second half. Additionally, SDSU, which has made more free throws than its opponents have taken, went to the line only three times, missing all three.
”Their size kept us from getting to the rim,” Fisher said. ”I’ve always been an advocate, you adjust to the flow of the game. And the flow of that game was, no harm no foul. We shot three free throws for the game, they shot six. So they didn’t call anything. You have to be able to adjust. Part of our MO is getting to line 30 times. We got there three and didn’t make any of the three.”
It was the Aztecs’ second straight road loss. They were defeated 68-62 at Wyoming on Feb. 11, when they gave up a number of dunks.
”The main thing we learned is that we can’t come out and play the way that we played and expect to win,” forward JJ O’Brien said. ”We’ve obviously got to pick up our focus on defense and offense both. We’ve got to be mentally better there, got to take better shots. We’ve got to play better overall. We can’t play bad and expect to win.”
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