No. 16 San Diego St. edges Fresno St.
FRESNO, Calif. (AP)
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher warned his players that Mountain West Conference games would be more intense than anything they experienced during nonleague play.
If the No. 16 Aztecs weren't listening, they are now.
Jamaal Franklin scored 20 points, including a highlight reel dunk, and had a career-high 18 rebounds to help San Diego State edge Fresno State 65-62 on Wednesday night in the MWC opener for both teams.
''Even though we didn't win by as much as we want to win for us to come into a hostile place without our starting point guard and still come out with a win, you've got to be proud of that,'' said Frankin, the conference preseason MVP.
Franklin had the play of the night when he threw the ball off the backboard during a fast break, caught it in midair and dunked between two Bulldogs defenders.
''That was just me being myself. A lot of players won't do that, but I'm real thankful my teammates have confidence in me,'' Franklin said.
Fresno State trailed by 10 in the second half before rallying to take a 62-61 lead with 2:45 left. The Aztecs (13-2, 1-0) hit two free throws to go back on top and then Franklin made two more with 18.1 seconds left to seal the win.
''I told our team that when you move from nonconference to conference play, the level of energy, preparation and scouting is exponentially raised,'' Fisher said. ''Every game has the potential to be like this.''
Kevin Foster scored 18 points and Kevin Olekaibe added 15 for Fresno State (6-8, 0-1), which has lost five straight to Division I opponents.
Trailing 47-37 with 13:14 left, Fresno State came back behind Olekaibe. His 3-pointer from the corner with 5:36 left cut the deficit to 58-56. He then made another 3 with 2:45 left to put the Bulldogs ahead, their first lead since midway through the first half.
After Franklin's two free throws, Marvelle Harris' potential tying 3-pointer glanced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
''We did a really good job not letting them get a clean look,'' Fisher said. ''The shot they took was hotly contested.''
The Aztecs were without point guard Xavier Thames, who missed the game with a strained lower back. Winston Shepard, a highly recruited 6-foot-8 freshman from Houston, started in Thames' place and finished with seven assists and seven rebounds.
Shephard's seven assists were a season high for San Diego State. James Rahon added 16 points for the Aztecs, including three closely guarded second-half 3 pointers. San Diego State won its 32nd straight against teams from California, the longest active streak in Division I.
It was the first meeting between San Diego State and Fresno State as conference members since 1999, when both were in the Western Athletic Conference.
''I was really proud of the effort we had tonight,'' Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry said. ''I wanted to see our guys go out and compete and have each others' backs and be great teammates and leave it all out there on the floor.''
San Diego State led 33-26 at halftime, closing the first half with a 9-3 run.
At 13-2, the Aztecs are off to the second-best start in school history with both losses coming against top 10 teams. They opened 20-0 in 2010-11.