No. 25 San Diego St. 60, Missouri St. 44
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP)
Asked what it took to turn the tide, San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin, clenched his left fist and then thumped his chest.
''Heart. We've got a lot of heart. We do what it takes to win,'' Franklin said Saturday after the No. 23-ranked Aztecs beat Missouri State 60-44 Saturday for a nonconference victory that coach Steve Fisher likened to the tough-as-nails road showdowns in the Mountain West.
Franklin scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half to put No. 23 San Diego State up early, and James Rahon hit a key 3-pointer late.
''This was the kind of game we thought we were going to have in terms of how hard we would be played. They were physical and knocked us back early on,'' San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said.
Fisher later added this, ''I thought our half-court defense kept them from getting good, clean looks and allowed us to win the game.''
The Aztecs, playing the equivalent of a noon game on the West Coast time, appeared groggy much of the first half and then found themselves engaged in a defensive battle usually seen in the Bears' mid-major Missouri Valley Conference.
The Aztecs led 39-30 midway through the second half before the Bears rallied. Missouri State (1-1) pulled within 41-37 on Anthony Downing's basket with 7:13 left.
But the Aztecs pulled away thanks to 3-pointers on consecutive possessions from Rahon and Chase Tapley.
It was the second consecutive victory for San Diego State since the Aztecs lost the season opener against Syracuse.
Franklin finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Missouri State was led by Downing's 16 points. Keith Pickens, who missed the season opener to rest injured knees, had nine points and six rebounds.
San Diego State's athleticism and length won out over Missouri State, which lacks a true post presence. The Aztecs dominated in rebounds, 52-34, and frustrated Missouri State into shooting 28.1 percent (16 of 57) for the game.
The 16-point margin was the most by a visitor in JQH Arena, which opened in November 2008.
''We knew they were going to come in here and give us a battle. I felt like our freshmen, I think they all battled and we played our hearts out. We just came up short,'' Downing said. ''If we would have rebounded, it would have been a different outcome than what it was.''
The Aztecs outrebounded the Bears 52-34.
Missouri State is in a rebuilding mode just two years after winning the MVC regular-season title, led by then-conference player of the year Kyle Weems, who graduated last season.
Drew Wilson led Missouri State with nine rebounds, and Dorrian Williams scored eight points for the Bears.
''I thought it really affected us in the first half when Pickens and Christian were out for an indefinite amount of time,'' Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. ''We hung in there. But that's our best defensive unit. And then our lack of experience showed at times.''
San Diego State plays host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday before back-to-back games against Southern Cal and UCLA.
''I told our team, `This is going to be like a road game in the league, this is going to be a Mountain West Conference road game, and you know what those are like,''' Fisher said. ''And it was.''