No. 13 San Diego State downs Fresno State, 82-67
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Xavier Thames had been struggling with his shot for weeks until a step-back 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer Saturday night seemed to snap San Diego State’s top scorer out of his funk.
Thames shot 7 of 12 from the field to finish with 22 points and the 13th-ranked Aztecs unveiled a new motion offense in their 82-67 victory over Fresno State.
San Diego State (24-3, 14-2 Mountain West) shot 60 percent from the field, including 9 of 15 on 3s, to cool off a Fresno State team that had won seven of eight. Thames was 3 of 4 behind the arc to help the Aztecs end a two-game skid on the road.
"Put that in the bank and take it with us to the next two, three, six, 11 (games)," coach Steve Fisher said. "We shot the ball well. Most of them were pretty good shots, too. You’ve got a chance to make it when you take good shots and we took good shots."
It was the largest margin of defeat during conference play for Fresno State (15-15, 8-9).
Thames shot 21.4 percent (12 of 56) in the previous five games combined. But the Aztecs’ new offense that creates more side-to-side movement with more passes allowed Thames and his teammates to get into a rhythm.
Former walk-on Aqeel Quinn came off the bench to score 17 points, shooting 6 of 7 from the field and 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
"I don’t know if it’s the new offense, but we looked energized," Quinn said. "I think we all looked forward to running that offense as soon as this game came.
"A lot of people get to touch the ball. When a lot of people get to touch the ball, a lot of people get a little flow in the game."
San Diego State led by five at halftime after Thames’ 3-pointer and then pulled away in the second half, particularly when Bulldogs top scorer Tyler Johnson went to the bench because of foul problems.
Winston Shepard scored on a runner in transition to give the Aztecs their first double-digit lead, 47-37, with 18:11 remaining.
The lead grew when Johnson went to the bench for a 2-minute stretch and San Diego State went on a 9-2 run to make it 56-43.
After Johnson re-entered, he quickly picked up his fourth foul with 12:07 remaining and took a seat again. And though Johnson came back in a few minutes later, San Diego State extended its cushion to 72-53 on Thames’ 3-pointer with 6:19 left.
Johnson, who entered ranked third in the Mountain West with an average of 18.6 points, had a fairly quiet night until scoring six points in the final 4:21 to finish with 18. Marvelle Harris added 17 points for the Bulldogs.
"He never really got into a flow because of those fouls," Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said of Johnson. "That made it tough on us for a while."
Fresno State was trying to beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2002.
At halftime, the school honored Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian, raising a jersey to the rafters as a sold-out crowd of 14,801 cheered loudly.
The Aztecs shot 61.9 percent from the field in the first half, including 5 of 8 behind the 3-point line. Fresno State shot 46.2 percent and went 4 of 8 from long range.
San Diego State led 40-35 at the break behind 11 points each from Thames and Quinn.