Jan. 12, 2014
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Air Force guard Tre' Coggins did everything he could on Sunday to extend the streak to three years in a row that the Falcons have defeated a ranked San Diego State at Clune arena.
Coggins' 29 points, however, were not enough to stop the surging No. 13 Aztecs from defeating the Falcons 79-73.
"SDSU played us very well and they are a very good team" Coggins said. "They caused us to turn the ball over (14 turnovers for AFA to seven for SDSU).
JJ O'Brien led the Aztecs with 18 points and 11 rebounds. SDSU was also aided by Josh Davis with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Xavier Thames with 16 points. SDSU freshman shooting specialist Matt Shrigley scored all 13 of his points in the second half, connecting on three critical three-point buckets midway through the second half.
"We have not seen that kind of length and size. That team (SDSU) just played and won at Kansas last Sunday. They're a little bit more experienced than us," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "Our effort was outstanding."
The San Diego State (14-1 overall, 3-0 in Mountain West Conference) victory was its 13th straight (fifth longest active streak nationally) and tied the second-longest winning streak in school history. In addition, SDSU's 14-1 record continues the Aztecs' second best start in school history (20-0 in 2010-22).
Even though SDSU was 9-2 versus Air Force (8-7, 2-2) in the previous 11 games, AFA's Clune Arena has been a nemesis for the Aztecs the past two years, including a Falcons' 70-67 home victory over the Aztecs last season and a 58-56 win in 2012. SDSU was ranked in the top 25 in both of those loses.
"We came in more focused. With the last couple of years maybe we had expectations to win and win big and we came in (today) knowing it was going to be a good game," O'Brien said. "It is not easy to win here. We were just really tough tonight."
"Air Force (8-7, 2-2) popped us twice in a row (at Clune) so it was nice to come in here and sneak out a victory," SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. "For whatever reason, this has been a hard place for us."
The Falcons, however, did not go down easily against the taller, deeper and more physical Aztecs. The Falcons led for much of the first half before trailing 31-27 going into the break. San Diego State re-established control and physical advantage in the second half to earn the victory.
In the end San Diego's rebounding advantage and three-point shooting proved to be the difference. SDSU held a 39-30 total rebounding edge and a 17-6 advantage in offensive rebounds. The Aztecs shot 7-14 from three-point territory while AFA was 7-20. The Aztecs also had a free throw shooting advantage, hitting 18-30 while the Falcons were 9-13.
"We got tentative against the press," Pilipovich said. "We worked on it in practice but couldn't duplicate their (SDSU's) length or athleticism in practice."
The Aztecs came into the game in third place in the MW and the Falcons were in fourth place.
AFA had momentum at home having won eight of its last nine at Clune coming into Sunday's game. The Aztecs, however, made sure the AFA winning streak against them at Clune was not extended to three consecutive years. SDSU came out ablaze to start the second half scoring seven unanswered points in the first two minutes for a 38-27 lead and Aztecs never trailed in the second half.
"We didn't finish the first half very well and didn't start the second half very well," Pilipovich said. "Right in there is where they built their lead and maintained it to win the game."
San Diego State, a heavy favorite, had an advantage in depth, rotating minutes relatively evenly among 10 players to while Air Force only sparingly played three players from its bench.
"Air Force has played everybody tough," Fisher said. "But our depth helped us for sure."
Coggins' tenacity and 29 points, including five three-pointers, kept Air Force close until the end.
"We got afraid to guard him (Coogins) in the last two minutes and then when we did guard him we fouled him," Fisher said. "He's a good player. He can beat you off the bounce and if you back off him he can beat you shooting from a distance."
San Diego State was the Falcons' first ranked opponent this season. AFA is now 4-80 against ranked opponents in program history. The Falcons will likely have another chance to beat a ranked team when they play the Aztecs in San Diego on February 15.