San Diego St.-Fresno St. Preview
San Diego State has to get through a pair of road games before returning home for a potential showdown for the Mountain West Conference title.
The 13th-ranked Aztecs are hoping to begin that set by extending a lengthy win streak over in-state opponents but they’ll have to face surging Fresno State on Saturday night.
San Diego State (24-3, 13-2) will also travel to third-place UNLV on Wednesday before its regular-season finale against No. 25 New Mexico on March 8. The Lobos moved into a tie atop the standings with the Aztecs with a 58-44 win last Saturday in Albuquerque.
San Diego State bounced back with a 90-64 rout of visiting San Jose State on Tuesday, its 40th consecutive win against a team from California. Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien had 12 points apiece for the Aztecs, who got scoring contributions from 12 players.
They had nine players score against Fresno State on Jan. 15 but had to overcome a 33.3-percent shooting performance for a 68-60 win. San Diego State made 26 free throws, 15 more than the Bulldogs, and Xavier Thames had 10 of his 28 points in the final 12 minutes.
Thames, averaging a team-best 16.4 points, has scored only a combined 19 in the last three games and has shot 21.4 percent (12 of 56) in his last five. The senior guard, though, also hasn’t committed a turnover in those past five contests.
"(Thames) has got to be confident that he’s going to take and make his shots," coach Steve Fisher said. "He’s got freedom to make decisions. He’s going to take more shots, as a rule, than anybody on our team, everyone should know that. But that comes with responsibility, making good decisions, but being unafraid to take his shot."
The loss to San Diego State was among Fresno State’s 10 in a 12-game stretch. The Bulldogs (15-14, 8-8) have won seven of eight since then and blew out Boise State 76-56 on Wednesday.
Marvelle Harris led the way with 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Leading scorer Tyler Johnson (16.5 points per game) contributed 15 despite missing eight of his 12 shots.
"(Fresno State) looked as good as anybody in the league. They’ve won seven out of eight, and if you do that in any conference, you’re playing pretty good basketball," Fisher said. "So this will be a good challenge for us. … They’re good and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. (Coach) Rodney Terry has done a really good job with that program."
San Diego State has won seven in a row over the Bulldogs but has earned its last two wins at Fresno State by a combined seven points. The Aztecs came away with a 65-62 victory in the most recent visit Jan. 9, 2013.
"We have a talented ball club coming in that’s very well-coached," Terry said. "They pose a huge challenge for us in a lot of different regards. We’ll have our work cut out for us."
Fresno State has lost 13 in a row to Top 25 teams since a 58-52 win over visiting No. 14 Oklahoma State on Feb. 10, 2002, and dropped the last four home matchups.