San Diego State breezed past San Jose State, 90-64, on Tuesday night as it won its 40th straight against a California opponent.
Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II and JJ O’Brien each scored 12 points to lead a balanced Aztecs offense which saw four players reach double figures.
”I was really proud how we came out on offense and shared the ball better than we have in a game all season, and sometime to a fault,” SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. ”But I rather it be that way. We did a great job of playing for others and trusting in others that if you give it up you will get it back.”
The Aztecs were also looking to rekindle their winning ways.
Coming off their third loss of the season, the Aztecs (24-3, 13-2 Mountain West) had an easy time against the overmatched Spartans (7-20, 1-14).
”We just didn’t take care of the basketball and we game them opportunities,” SJS coach Dave Wojcik said.
SDSU took care of business after a rocky week.
The Aztecs had dropped seven spots in the poll after losing their second game in two weeks, a 58-44 thumping at New Mexico on Saturday. But the Aztecs didn’t lose two-in-a-row while preventing San Jose State from winning consecutive outings.
”We got spanked in New Mexico,” Fisher said. ”We got a little jittery for whatever reason, the crowd, the opponent. We lost a game we wanted to win and we got beat pretty bad. And we wanted to return the favor and we were able to do it.”
San Jose State, which won its first conference game in school history last week at Nevada, was paced by Rashad Muhammad and Jaleel Williams, with 14 points apiece. But Muhammad said the Spartans were sloppy in tying a season-high with 22 turnovers.
”We got to take care of the ball better,” Muhammad said.
With the win the Aztecs kept pace with New Mexico to remain tied for first place. The two teams face each other on March 8.
The Aztecs put the game away with a 19-1 run starting with 15 minutes left in the second half. The Spartans committed seven fouls over that stretch and San Diego State’s defense continued to cause problems.
San Jose State, which shot zero free throws in the first half, continues to struggle as the Aztecs held the Spartans without a point over 7 minutes. The Spartans went more than eight minutes between field goals as the Aztecs dominated in the paint, outscoring SJS, 50-18.
The Aztecs held a 44-30 halftime lead, thanks in part to a pesky defense which had 11 steals.
The Spartans hung around early, thanks to the long ball. They hit six 3-pointers in the first half, with four in the opening seven minutes.
But after trailing by just one with 12 minutes left in the half, the Aztecs’ defense tightened and the Spartans quickly gave ground.
SDSU stretched its lead to 31-21 on Shepard’s finger roll at the 7:25 mark and was ahead by 14 heading into the second half.
The 44 points were the most by the Aztecs in any half since they scored 46 in beating the Spartans earlier this season. Their 90 points were the most against a Division I opponent this year.
The Aztecs said after Saturday’s wake-up call in New Mexico, it was important to bounce back.
”New Mexico was kind of like a reality check for us,” Polee said. ”We’re locked back in and we came out this game really focused.”
It was the Aztecs’ defense that translated into 33 points off turnovers. Many of those came from the presence of forward Skylar Spencer, who had but two blocked shots but his presence meant more.
”It’s just the way he alters shots,” O’Brien said. ”If there was a stat for that he would lead the nation. A lot of what he does doesn’t show up but he is just a great help-side defender. He cleans up a lot of our mistakes.”
The Aztecs didn’t make many in winning for the 13th straight time at home.