San Diego St.-Air Force Preview
San Diego State appeared to be in trouble two weeks ago, falling out of the Top 25 after two consecutive losses. Then, the Aztecs revived their stingy defense to recover with two blowout victories.
Now, No. 22 San Diego State will be tasked with slowing down the Mountain West's top shooting squad on Saturday when they travel to Air Force. The Aztecs are limiting opponents to 38.2 percent field-goal shooting, but the Falcons are 16th in the country in shooting at 48.4 percent.
San Diego State (16-4, 4-2) started 2-2 in conference play and lost its ranking of No. 15 after losses to UNLV and Wyoming on Jan. 16 and 19, allowing those teams to shoot a combined 48.1 percent from the field. But the Aztecs reeled off 21-point wins against Nevada and then-No. 15 New Mexico last week. It was their first consecutive conference wins by at least 20 points for the first time since 1983.
The 55-34 win over New Mexico saw them hold the Lobos to 25.0 percent shooting - their worst mark since 1965. It was also San Diego State's largest margin of victory against a nationally ranked team.
"As good as we were as a team, I have to start with Jamaal (Franklin)," coach Steve Fisher said. "For those that only look at a stat line, you don't appreciate what he brings to this team. He's the soul of our program. he will everybody to be ready."
Franklin, who leads the team in scoring (17.4 points per game), rebounds (9.4), assists (3.4) and steals (1.5) was only 4 of 16 but had 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
San Diego State recorded 10 steals and forced 17 turnovers.
"I feel that when we lost to Wyoming, that was a wakeup call," Franklin said. "It was one of those that if we keep playing the way we were, being lackadaisical, walking on the court, thinking that we are going to win this game, it is not going to happen. Especially in a league like this when you are playing good teams every day. I feel like our energy is on point now."
Air Force (13-6, 4-2) also didn't start its conference slate well, going 1-2, but has won four straight games since, including three in Mountain West play.
The Falcons have been particularly strong at home, going 9-1 while shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from 3-point range, outscoring teams by an average of 20.8 points there.
Overall, their 39.4 percent 3-point shooting is one of the best marks in the nation and second only to Boise State in the Mountain West.
"This put us where we wanted to be," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We're 4-2 and we're tied for second. Who knows if we'll win another game, but we're going to fight like heck. These guys have done a really good job and they deserve to have a good crowd here on Saturday to support them against a top 25-ranked team like San Diego State."
Air Force had dropped eight straight meetings in the series before Lyons scored 27 in a 58-56 home win on Feb. 18, 2012.