Jan 10, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Zylan Cheatham (14) is defended by San Jose State Spartans forward Brandon Clarke (15) during the first half at Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State isn’t used to losing three straight Mountain West games, especially at the start of league play.
The Aztecs made sure it didn’t turn into four straight by playing a solid first half en route to a 76-61 victory against San Jose State on Tuesday night.
“It felt good,” said Jeremy Hemsley, who joined Max Hoetzel and Trey Kell in scoring 12 points apiece. “That’s what we’re used to doing, winning. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had these losses, especially starting the conference 0-3, but it did feel good to win and get back on track.”
The Aztecs (9-7, 1-3), the three-time regular season Mountain West Conference champion, opened league play with a home loss to New Mexico and road losses to Nevada and Boise State.
SDSU, playing just its second home game in nearly a month, used a 14-0 run in the first half to take control. Hoetzel and Matt Shrigley each hit a 3-pointer in the run, which gave the Aztecs a 32-16 lead. It was 42-23 at halftime.
Coach Steve Fisher called it “a very, very good win, a much needed win. And we had a first half that if we could play that way for 40 minutes rather than 20 minutes, we’ll be a really good team. But we did what we had to do tonight.”
Hoetzel hit four 3-pointers overall and had nine rebounds. Zylan Cheatham and Montaque Gill-Caeser each scored 10 for SDSU.
Hemsley said the difference between Tuesday night and the losing streak was better ball movement.
“We shared the ball pretty good. We did a good job of just running. We weren’t really stagnant, we weren’t really standing around just watching the next man to see what he was doing.”
Brandon Clarke scored 25 for the Spartans (8-7, 1-3).
Fisher said the pivotal point was when Clarke was whistled for his third foul less than six minutes into the game.
San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik agreed.
“I was frustrated that a game was lost in the first half because of that,” he said. “People come to the game wanting to see the best players play. And he’s the best player on the court. We knew that going into the game. He showed that in the second half. That really hurt us.
“Your hands are tied,” Wojcik added. “The whole team understands what Brandon means to us. When he’s sitting for 12 minutes, we’re going to struggle. There’s no doubt about it. Any team would with their best player down. That’s where he has to learn and our other guys have to pick it up. They can’t put their heads down. They’ve got to make plays.”
The Spartans made just 3 of 20 3-point shots. The Aztecs had 17 assists, but also committed 18 turnovers.
San Jose State: The Spartans are struggling in MWC play, too. They opened with losses to Nevada and Colorado State before beating Fresno State on Saturday.
San Diego State: Forward Malik Pope sat out with a knee injury for the sixth straight game and ninth overall this season. Valentine Izundu suffered a cut on his forehead midway through the first half. He returned in the second half, with a big bandage over his left eye.
San Jose State visits Air Force on Saturday.
San Diego State hosts Utah State on Saturday night.