Utah St.-San Diego St. Preview
SAN DIEGO (AP)
Having its 20-game winning streak snapped cost San Diego State only one spot in the new Associated Press Top 25 poll. That is just fine with coach Steve Fisher.
The Aztecs (22-2, 11-1 Mountain West) dropped to No. 6 on Monday and knew it could have been a steeper fall.
''We were helped by teams right there that lost,'' Fisher said, mentioning Villanova and Michigan State. ''Some of the teams that may have creeped up ahead of us, had they won, they lost. So we held serve a little bit.''
Fisher recognized another factor that kept SDSU from falling too far.
''We are now regarded as a team with a program, so it is not unusual to have San Diego State ranked. And I like that,'' he said.
SDSU lost 68-62 at Wyoming last Tuesday, blowing a shot at a school-record 21st straight victory. It rebounded with a 64-56 home victory against Air Force on Saturday, and will host Utah State on Tuesday night.
San Diego State remains a game ahead of New Mexico in the conference race. That is why the coming week is more important than the previous one.
Before heading to Albuquerque for their much-anticipated first showdown this season against New Mexico on Saturday night, the Aztecs will try for their 12th consecutive home victory. Utah State (15-10, 5-8) has won three of four, and earlier this season took San Diego State to overtime before losing 74-69.
''They aren't going to win the league but they could have a say in who wins the league,'' Fisher said.
The Aztecs will be asked to defend a half-court offense that is patient and looks to take advantage of a series of screens. Utah State loves to rotate its post players down low, seeking an opening to expose a defense.
''We have to be more focused to start and attentive to them running the baseline,'' guard Aqeel Quinn said. ''I think we will be ready.''
Utah State forward Kyle Davis, who averages nearly eight rebounds, is ready to go after missing the first matchup between the teams because of a knee injury. The Aggies have three players averaging at least 13 points, led by senior center Jarred Shaw's 14.7 per game.
''This is a good team,'' Fisher said. ''I know coaches always say that but they are a good team that is playing well and they can score the ball in different fashions.''
But the Aztecs are stout at home, where their only loss this season was 69-60 to Arizona on Nov. 14. Fisher expects another boost on Tuesday from another sell-out crowd.
''I think that will make a difference; the home court is of value,'' he said. ''We are not to say the fans are going to win it for us, but we have to come out and compete like crazy.''
Utah State had a three-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's 73-62 home loss to UNLV. Shaw scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Aggies.
"I thought we played really hard, we just had some defensive slippage," Shaw said. "... They played better than us. We have to fix our defensive errors and come back Monday to get better. ... We just have to learn from this one and move forward."