SAN DIEGO (AP) — The score said it was a walkover. San Diego State’s reaction said otherwise.
Jamaal Franklin had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Chase Tapley scored 14 points to lead to lead No. 19 San Diego State to a 72-57 victory against Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday night in its final tuneup before opening Mountain West Conference play.
All that, and Franklin ripped his own performance.
“It was awful. It was disappointing. But we got the victory, so that’s good,” he said.
Why so bad?
“Five turnovers,” said Franklin, last season’s Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
Freshman Winston Shepard added 11 points for the Aztecs (12-2), who were playing for the first time since losing 68-67 to No. 3 Arizona in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Christmas night.
The Aztecs, who have been regular-season co-champions of the MWC the last two years and made three straight NCAA tournament appearances, visit Fresno State next Wednesday night in the conference opener.
“People probably look at stat line and think a lot of us had a good game,” Franklin said. “Everybody else had a good game. But for me, being a leader on this team, five turnovers in a big game, that’s not good. I look at this game as being awful, being terrible, being bad. In big games, that could hurt us.”
Coach Steve Fisher didn’t like the 13 turnovers overall and the Aztecs hitting a lull in the second half.
“If we could have quit at the 9:02 mark when were 24 ahead and I just knew within three possessions it would be 30, I would feel terrific,” Fisher said. “But we have to play 40 minutes and we played 31 minutes. We had three straight turnovers after it was 24 points ahead.”
Fisher’s pre-game message was to focus, concentrate and play smarter.
“We did none of the above the last 10 minutes of the game. And that’s unacceptable. I thought the first half we played really, really good team basketball. I’m not happy with the last 10 minutes,” Fisher said. “… Hopefully you learn from that. Leads are too fragile. Big leads can go in a hurry, I know. We’ve been a part of it.”
With the tough conference schedule ahead, Fisher knows there’s work to do. At practice Thursday, he plans to ask his players why they think they didn’t play well down the stretch.
“I not going to obsess over it, even though it sounds like I’m doing that right now,” Fisher said. “But I’m not going to just dismiss it. … I’m going to say if you’re good enough to be here on scholarship, you’re good enough to go in and play like I’ve seen you play. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why it happened”
Stephon Carter scored 21 points and Corey Hall added a career-high 14 for the Roadrunners (6-11), who lost for the fifth time in seven games.
SDSU was the third MWC team to beat Bakersfield this season, joining Wyoming and Colorado State.
Xavier Thames, Tapley and Franklin all made a 3-pointer and freshman Skylar Spencer had a slam dunk to help the Aztecs to an 18-9 lead 8 minutes in.
San Diego State scored the final seven points of the half, including a 3-pointer by Tapley at the buzzer, to take a 37-20 lead.
Thames went out with a lower back strain early in the second half and didn’t return.
It was SDSU’s 31st straight victory against teams from California.
“They’re talented,” Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said. “They’re so versatile. Franklin is the kind of kid who brings so much; he rebounds, he passes, he plays with energy, he’s a solid guy. Seeing them up close, I’m impressed.”