San Diego State Aztecs guard Jeremy Hemsley, center, drives to the basket against California center Kameron Rooks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Leading California by 18 points midway through the second half, San Diego State's Jeremy Hemsley thought he and his teammates became a little complacent.
Coach Steve Fisher didn't see it that way and was more focused on the outcome — a big win for the Aztecs, one week after they got blown out by 14th-ranked Gonzaga.
Hemsley scored 15 points, Trey Kell converted a 3-point play with 2:21 remaining that pushed a shrinking lead back into double digits and San Diego State beat California 77-65 on Monday night.
“We let them get some easy looks and we weren't rebounding as well as we did in the first half,” Hemsley said. “That's something we do have to work on, playing the whole game and not letting the foot off the gas pedal.”
Malik Pope had 14 points and five rebounds in his season debut before fouling out late in the second half, Kell scored 11 points and Max Hoetzel added 11 points and seven rebounds for San Diego State (3-1). Pope sat out the first three games with a knee injury.
The Aztecs shot just 36.9 percent and let most of a 62-44 lead slip away before holding on for their fourth straight win between the two teams.
“You have to be able to stem the tide and not allow a run to grow and grow and grow,” Fisher said. “It happens. I don't know that we let up. Cal competes hard and so do we.”
Both teams struggled shooting most of the game but combined for 67 free throw attempts at the Golden 1 Center, home to the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
Ivan Rabb had 19 points and 11 rebounds in his first game of the season for California (2-1).
“Once Ivan settled down and we settled down we were able to see the defense and we were able to do a better job,” Bears coach Cuonzo Martin said.
GOLDEN DEBUT FOR BOTH TEAMS
The game was the second NCAA game played at the Golden 1 Center. UC Davis beat Sacramento State 81-72 in the first half of the doubleheader. Former Cal point guard and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson attended the game and sat courtside.
Maybe the voters saw this coming. California dropped out of the Top 25 this week despite beating Irvine while playing without three starters. The Bears had a chance to get back in with a win over the Aztecs but that's not going to happen now.
San Diego State: Fisher's team had been playing short-handed in its first three games but got most of the injured guys back. Pope's return was key but the Aztecs will need to find more scoring somewhere. They made only 11 of 32 shots after halftime.
California: This was a step up in competition and the Bears didn't handle it well early, shooting only 23.1 percent in the first half. That they made it close in the second half was mostly due to the Aztecs' poor shooting. Still, what looked like a blowout turned into a tight stretch run and for that Cal can feel good. Getting Rabb back was also big, though it's clear he's going to need some time to get adjusted.