Jan. 20, 2011
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Although it wasn't as smooth as they would have liked, the No. 6 San Diego State Aztecs reached yet another milestone in the best season in school history.
SDSU extended the country's longest active winning streak to a school-record 20 games by beating Air Force 68-55 on Wednesday night. D.J. Gay scored 20 points and Billy White had 10 of his 12 during a decisive 13-3 run late in the game.
Like they've done several times this season, the Aztecs had a slow first half before taking control in the second.
"You're not going to play a perfect game," said coach Steve Fisher, whose Aztecs remain one of Division I's three unbeaten teams.
Nor are they going to play much bigger games than they will next Wednesday night, when the Aztecs (20-0, 5-0 Mountain West) visit conference rival and ninth-ranked BYU.
"We definitely didn't play our best," said Gay, who made 6 of 11 3-pointers. "We are happy we came away with the win. We should have played a lot better, but it's a win nonetheless. We can't be satisfied to where we are right now. 20-0 is great, but we've got a big game ahead of us. So we have to maintain our focus, smile once the game is over, but five minutes later it's back to business."
Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard had 10 points and 10 rebounds for SDSU, his 13th double-double this season and 30th of his career.
Tom Fow scored 21 points for Air Force (10-7, 1-3).
Air Force stuck around long enough to make the Aztecs earn it, which they did over the final 7 1/2 minutes. The Falcons got consecutive 3-pointers from Fow and Derek Brooks to pull to 48-44 before suddenly going cold.
White got hot for the Aztecs, keying the game-deciding run with two 3-pointers, a three-point play and a free throw. Chase Tapley added two free throws while Malcolm Thomas had one.
"We aren't finishing off at 40 minutes," Fow said. "We have to close that gap. We are getting stuck at 35 minutes of good basketball. Sometimes we try to play our opponents' game. We need to play our game an we need to control the ball and we need to play our tempo."
SDSU used an 8-0 run midway through the half to take a 48-38 lead. Leonard made a bank shot, James Rahon a 3-pointer and Brian Carlwell a slam dunk after a pass from Leonard.
SDSU made 11 of 26 3-pointers and outrebounded Air Force 34-20.
The Aztecs made 13 of 25 3-pointers in an 87-77 win at New Mexico on Saturday, including seven by Gay.
"You pick your poison," Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. "Up until the last game against New Mexico, they hadn't shot great from 3-point range. And tonight they demonstrated that they have more than an inside presence. When D.J. shoots the ball like that and they get Tapley going, they're hard to guard."
Air Force not only stayed with the Aztecs in the first half, but jumped to a 28-22 lead with 3:15 left in the first half. Fow, who made three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes and had 16 points at halftime, hit a jumper and Brooks made two shots from underneath to quiet the sellout crowd of 12,414 at Viejas Arena.
Gay had eight points as the Aztecs went on a 12-2 run over the final 2:51, including scoring the final nine points to take a 34-30 halftime lead. Gay, coming off a career-high 30 points at New Mexico, hit consecutive 3-pointers, Leonard had a steal and a layup, Gay followed with a layup and White made a turnaround jumper. Air Force's only points in the run came on Zach Bohannon's inside shot on a pretty feed from Evan Washington.
"They deserved to be ahead of halftime, but we did what we've done a lot of times," Fisher said. "We closed with a 9-0 run to give ourselves a little ability to take a deep breath. We were aware of what we needed to do. We just didn't do it quite well enough in the first half. We knew Tom Fow could shoot the ball."
Said Reynolds: "We didn't handle their pressure in the second half. Our guards weren't able to get the ball past half court. They turned us over. They got too many points off second shots and too many points off turnovers. That's the difference in the game."
After the game, Reynolds shook hands with fans in the SDSU student section, known as "The Show." He said it was the first time he'd ever done that.
"I told them that the reason they were undefeated was because of them," Reynolds said. "That's a great atmosphere. They're into it. That's what college basketball is supposed to be about. Their kids are into the game and they do it the right way."