Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, extending San Diego State's winning streak to 13 games by beating San Francisco 62-56 on Tuesday night.
The game wasn't pretty — the teams combined for 29 turnovers — but Leonard's double-double buoyed the Aztecs in its first of two games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
"It's a bit of a surprise," said Leonard, who tied his season high in points and set a new personal best in rebounds. The double-double was his eighth this year and 25th for his career.
"They came out playing harder than us and we just needed to do as well as we did in other games," he said.
Along with the turnovers, the game was filled with missed shots and shaky defense.
Neither team went ahead by more than one score during the second half until Malcolm Thomas hit a layup with less than four minutes left to give San Diego State (13-0) a 53-48 advantage.
San Francisco (4-7) pulled within three points with 31 seconds left after Rashad Green converted a layup and free throw, but couldn't tie.
D.J. Gay had 14 points for the Aztecs but said his team's performance wasn't up to par.
"You can't go into the league and have games like this. It's something that definitely needs to change," Gay said. "The only positive from this game is the win."
Michael Williams had 16 points for the Dons, while Angelo Caloiaro and Perris Blackwell each scored 14.
San Diego State salvaged its hottest start ever in its first game as a top 10 team in the AP Top 25 poll, winning its 13th straight game. The streak is the second longest in the country behind No. 1 Duke.
The Aztecs and Dons combined for 29 turnovers, each costing themselves multiple chances to build lasting momentum.
During one stretch, San Diego State forward Billy White stepped out of bounds while driving along the baseline, then Green turned it over on the following possession. Gay then tried to inbound the ball, but stepped on the line and turned it over again.
A few moments later, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher shouted at his team to "rebound the ball" as San Francisco lined up for a free throw because his team hadn't boxed out during the last play.
"The good teams find a way to win when they don't play their best game," San Francisco coach Rex Walters said.
The Aztecs shot 51 percent from the floor for the game — 63 percent in the second half. San Francisco shot 42 percent from the floor.
The teams were tied 31-31 at halftime after San Diego State showed moments of strength, but inconsistency on offense and defense during the opening period.
The Aztecs built a 14-5 lead midway through the first half, but blew it in less than four minutes, committing four turnovers during a 9-0 San Francisco run.
San Diego St. got hot again toward the end of the half, but Angelo Caloiaro hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game.
"The more talented team won, but the harder-playing team lost," Fisher said. "Sometimes it's not fair, but that's how this game is played."
The Aztecs play IUPUI on Wednesday night at the South Point Arena.