San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 10th-ranked team in the nation takes to the hardwood at Viejas Arena tonight, as the San Diego State Aztecs entertain the Fresno State Bulldogs in Mountain West Conference action.
The Aztecs have been steadily climbing up the charts, thanks to a 13-game win streak that began after the program bowed to sixth-ranked Arizona (69-60) back on Nov. 14. San Diego State has defeated a trio of nationally-ranked schools during the run (Creighton, Marquette and Kansas), and most recently slipped by a tenacious Air Force squad by a final of 79-72 over the weekend.
As for the Bulldogs, they've opened conference play with just one win in four chances, taking down Air Force a week ago in a 71-65 final. Over the weekend, FSU then fell hard versus Colorado State on the road, 76-57, which means the program has just a single victory over a Division I foe since the first few days of December.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, history is working against the squad as it has never defeated a top-10 program on the road, and the last win over such a highly-ranked team at any location took place way back in 1984 versus UNLV in tournament play in California.
The Aztecs own a 56-45 advantage in the all-time series and have not lost to Fresno State since 2000. Should SDSU come up with a victory tonight, the 14- game overall win streak would be the second-longest in program history, behind only the 20-game run produced by the squad just three seasons ago. Also, the Aztecs would move their win streak against foes from the state of California to 38 in a row.
Fresno State actually led by eight points early in the first half against the Rams over the weekend, but then the Bulldogs fell behind and never recovered, shooting a mere 29.6 percent from the floor in the second half of the 19-point decision. Tyler Johnson posted 21 points for the visitors to Moby Arena, while Paul Watson and Cezar Guerrero pitched in with 12 and 11 points, respectively, as the squad finished up with a mere 34.6 percent accuracy from the field.
Johnson leads the team in scoring with 18.3 ppg in four conference outings, accounting for a team-best 6.5 rpg as well, not to mention 13 assists which is second only to Guerrero (15.3 ppg) who has handed out 16 in four starts. Marvelle Harris checks in with 14.5 ppg which means the trio accounts for a large portion of the unit's 67.2 ppg, thanks in large part to a combined 27- of-61 shooting behind the 3-point line. However, the team as a whole is shooting only 38.1 percent from the floor and is being beaten on the glass by 11.7 rpg in those four league bouts.
The Falcons did not go away that easily against San Diego State, in fact Air Force actually shot 51.9 percent from the floor against one of the better defensive teams in the nation. Luckily, the Aztecs had JJ O'Brien and Josh Davis to lean on as they both delivered double-doubles with 18 and 13 points, respectively, as well as 11 rebounds apiece. Also scoring in double figures for SDSU were Xavier Thames with 16 points, Winston Shepard 14, and Matt Shrigley 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting off the bench in only 17 minutes of action.
San Diego State, while having lost one of eight games at home this season, is still an incredible defensive force in front of the hometown crowd. The squad has limited opponents to a minuscule 31.3 percent shooting from the floor, 20.1 percent behind the 3-point line and an average of only 48.8 ppg. The numbers on offense are also very encouraging with Thames checking in with 13.1 ppg, Shepard posting 14.3 ppg (in one less game), and O'Brien contributing 10.0 ppg. Davis is on the cusp of averaging a double-double with 9.9 points and 10.9 caroms per contest at Viejas Arena.