SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nearly a month later, No. 17 San Diego State has made its fans forget that awful shooting performance against Syracuse in the season opener on the flight deck of the USS Midway.
Chase Tapley went 6 of 8 from 3-point range and scored 23 points to lead five players in double figures and the Aztecs beat future conference rival UC Santa Barbara 84-70 on Thursday night, their seventh straight win.
Jamaal Franklin added 14 points, JJ O’Brien 12, Xavier Thames 11 and James Rahon 10 for the Aztecs (7-1), who join the Big West next season. It was their eighth straight victory over the Gauchos (3-5).
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The Aztecs shot 60.7 percent, including making 6 of 8 3-pointers, in running to a 46-29 halftime lead, and a season-high 55.8 percent (29 of 52) overall.
“We all know we can all shoot. Everybody’s seen us shoot. That first game, the Syracuse game on the boat, really made us look like we couldn’t shoot,” Tapley said.
“It messed us up,” O’Brien said.
The Aztecs have bounced back nicely since Nov. 11, when the taller Orange, who are now ranked No. 4, and a brisk wind led to the Aztecs shooting just 27 percent.
“I thought next year we ought to try to move it to the aircraft carrier and it might be a better result for us,” UCSB coach Bob Williams said. “Maybe if they play in the wind they wouldn’t shoot the ball quite like that. Six out of eight in the first half is pretty impressive. I’m not sure we’d make six out of eight if you weren’t guarding us.”
The Aztecs made 11 of 17 3-pointers, a season-high 64.7 percent.
“We shot the ball about as well as I’ve seen a San Diego State team since I’ve been here shoot it in the first half,” said coach Steve Fisher, who’s in his 14th season with the Aztecs. “And it’s contagious. Chase has been shooting the ball so well in practice that every time he shoots it you think it’s going in.
“We did a nice job against the defense that they played, and it can be confusing: `Are they zone? Are they man? What are they doing for sure?’ `’ Fisher said. “I thought we did a good job of spacing the floor and finding ways to get guys pretty clean looks and were effective with it.”
The Aztecs weren’t as effective in the second half, when they were outscored 41-38 by the Gauchos.
UCSB’s Kyle Boswell made 7 of 10 3-pointers for a career-high 23 points. Alan Williams had 18 and Taran Brown 16 before they both fouled out late in the game.
The Gauchos’ only lead was 5-4 after Brown made a 3-pointer 2 minutes in.
San Diego State then took control with a 14-0 run. O’Brien scored six points and Tapley and Thames both hit a 3-pointer.
San Diego State led 46-29 at halftime. Tapley, Thames and Rahon all made two 3-pointers in the first half.
Early in the second half, the Aztecs made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the first by Thames and then two by Tapley. Tapley was fouled taking another 3-pointer and made all three free throws for a 64-37 lead with 15:10 to play.
“They are a team that you have to keep them from penetrating,” Boswell said. “At the same time, they can shoot the ball extremely well. They have a bunch of weapons you have to respect. If you’re going to give up one thing they are going to exploit you in another way.”
The Aztecs have won 27 straight games against teams from California.