Aztecs Move Up to #10

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The San Diego State Men's basketball team is ranked 10th in the nation and for the first time in team history, they are undefeated with 11 wins.
     
    On Monday night, the Aztecs beat Cal Poly 51-45. The Aztecs shot only 35 percent from the floor (16 of 46) and zero percent from beyond the arc. The team was zero for 18 on three-point attempts. SDSU's Malcolm Thomas led with 18 points and 15 rebounds. By the half, SDSU was only up by one point at 16-15.

    Leading scorer Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley were too sick to play for on Monday night. The Aztecs' shooting was pretty ill, too.
      
    "It was a bit like running in mud at the offensive end," coach Steve Fisher said. "The harder we tried, the more we missed -- 0 for 18 from 3-point range, that's not us. But we played hard. Obviously we could not throw it in the ocean. And I think that sometimes starts to happen when one guy misses one that's wide open, then he starts to question himself. It shouldn't happen but it did for us tonight."

    Fisher said Leonard and Tapley were both feeling ill Saturday night, when SDSU beat San Diego 77-49. Fisher said they both took IVs before this game.

    Tapley, who averages 7.8 points, was sent home. Leonard, SDSU's leading scorer with a 16.3-point average, was on the bench and told Fisher he could play if needed. Fisher said he was tempted to put him in with about 10 minutes to go, but didn't.

    "It was really different without Kawhi and Chase on the court, but we have to play through stuff like that," Thomas said. "We have to defend every game, no matter who's on the court. That was our main focus today, just defend."

    The Aztecs had to rely on Thomas' inside game, including a thunderous dunk with 3:03 left for a 41-36 lead. That came after Cal Poly's Shawn Lewis and David Chanson hit 3-pointers to keep the Mustangs (3-6) close.

    Lewis had 14 points and David Hanson 12.

    Cal Poly's Jamal Johnson was fouled by Billy White with 38.8 seconds left and he made one of two free throws to pull the Mustangs within 43-40.

    D.J. Gay then made eight straight free throws in the final 38.3 seconds for the Aztecs. Gay was 1 for 11 from the field, including missing seven 3-point attempts.

    "Our goal was to pull a national upset," Cal Poly coach Joe Callero said. "We wanted to try and muck it up and make it as ugly as possible. We specialize in that."

    Cal Poly made 8 of 22 3-pointers.

    "They are so long and athletic and aggressive that when you try to penetrate the paint, they just get up there and beat the ball up," Callero said.

    The Aztecs had seemingly taken control with more than 8 minutes left when James Rahon made a three-point play for a 34-24 lead. Rahon finished with 14 points and Gay had 10.

    San Diego State needed a 7-0 run simply to take a 16-15 halftime lead. Thomas made two field goals and a free throw during the run. Hanson made two free throws with 59.1 seconds left for Cal Poly and neither team scored the rest of the half.

    SDSU opened the second half with a 9-2 run to finally get some breathing room. Thomas, a 6-foot-9 forward, made a baseline hook and a lay-up, Rahon had a three-point play and Gay made a long jumper as the Aztecs took a 25-17 lead.

    Neither team scored for more than 2 minutes, until White made two free throws with 13:25 to go.

    San Diego State took its biggest lead, 29-17, on White's dunk before Cal Poly got a 3-pointer by Lewis and a four-point play by Chris O'Brien to pull within 29-24.

    "I thought we did a great job on closing out on their shooters, as well as digging in on their good post men," Hanson said.

    Cal Poly was coming off a 72-61 loss at UCLA.

    "By no means was this a moral victory," Hanson said. "We were right there but we know we can play with anyone, we know we can play with the 11th team in the country, regardless of whether guys were out or whatever."

    The Aztecs have a few days off before hosting Santa Barbara on Saturday.