No. 18 San Diego St. 77, Miami (Ohio) 56
A perfect start. The first national ranking in school history. San Diego State headed home with all it wanted.
And, it could be just a start.
Kawhi Leonard had another double-double, and the 18th-ranked Aztecs turned up their defensive pressure and used two crushing scoring runs to pull away from Miami (Ohio) 77-56 on Monday night in the CBE Classic.
The Aztecs improved to 5-0 for the first time in three years, nationally ranked for the first time in their history. All five wins have come away from home, highlighted by a 79-76 victory at then-No. 11 Gonzaga - the Aztecs' biggest road win in their history.
''We've never been ranked, so everything is positive when it happens,'' coach Steve Fisher said. ''We embrace it. We think we deserve to be there. I told our team today, I want to look on Dec. 9 and see if we're still there.''
Leonard has led them to their early heights.
The sophomore forward is San Diego State's leading scorer and rebounder. He had 12 points and 13 rebounds on Monday, his eighth straight double-double. Point guard D.J. Gay led with 19 points.
Miami (2-3) had 19 turnovers and shot 37 percent from the field. San Diego State put it away with a 25-point run in the second half, holding the RedHawks scoreless for 12 minutes, 35 seconds.
''Our coaches noticed they were not handling our full-court pressure well,'' Leonard said. ''So we started doing that to speed up the game and gets some fastbreak points.''
Miami tied it at 39 early in the second half, then missed 12 shots and had a dozen turnovers during San Diego State's 25-0 spurt. Nick Winbush led Miami with 12 points.
''We started the second half well,'' Winbush said. ''After that, we went on a drought. We just can't do that.''
The Aztecs got off to slow starts in the first two games of the tournament on Miami's home floor, with the small crowds providing little help. There were only 1,858 fans on Monday even though the home team was play.
''There weren't many fans here,'' Leonard said. ''We had to bring our own energy.''
They found themselves playing from behind right away. Winbush made a fastbreak layup against a full-court press, then hit a pair of free throws that put Miami up 17-6 with 13:39 left in the half.
San Diego State turned up the pressure on a Miami offense run by freshman point guard Quinten Rollins, using a half-court trap to rattle the RedHawks.
''We self-destructed,'' coach Charlie Coles said. ''We're not taking care of the ball, and that's my fault. I don't know how we do it. We're just not very good right now.''
James Rahon hit a 3-pointer and made a three-point play during a 16-0 run that put San Diego State ahead 22-17. Miami was reduced to passing the ball around the perimeter and taking low-percentage shots with the clock running down during the scoring drought. One frustrated fan yelled: ''Get the ball inside once!''
The Aztecs weren't finished.
They increased the run to 25-2, holding Miami to only one basket during a 10-minute span. The spurt ended with an embarrassing Miami moment - Orlando Williams passed the ball inbound before Rollins was ready. Gay grabbed it and passed to Rahon for an easy basket and a 31-19 lead.
The RedHawks went 1 for 9 from the field with six turnovers during the 10-minute run.
The Aztecs missed their first four shots to open the second half, giving Miami a chance to pull even. A 3-pointer by Winbush and a driving layup by Antonio Ballard made it 39-all.
Gay hit a free throw to break the tie, then hit a floater in the lane and a long 3-pointer that sparked the decisive 25-point run. San Diego State pulled away even as it went deep into its bench.
''We have a good bench,'' Fisher said. ''We can go to the bench and not only hold our serve, but whack a couple of aces at you. We did that.''