Franklin leads Aztecs over Bulldogs in MWC opener
Fresno, CA – Jamaal Franklin recorded a double-double with 20 points and 18 rebounds, as the 16th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs opened Mountain West Conference play with a 65-62 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs.
James Rahon and Deshawn Stephens added 16 and 13 points, respectively, for the Aztecs (13-2, 1-0 MWC), who are the two-time defending conference champions.
Kevin Foster ended with 18 points and seven boards for the Bulldogs (6-8, 0-1), who made their MWC debut after coming over from the Western Athletic Conference. Kevin Olekaibe donated 15 points.
"I was really proud of the effort that we had tonight. Our guys really competed," Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "That was the one thing going into the ball game tonight that I challenged our guys. I wanted to see our guys go out and compete and have each others' backs and be great teammates and leave it all out there on the floor and I thought our guys did that for a better part of the entire game."
Aaron Anderson and Olekaibe made back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second half, pulling Fresno State within one, 33-32.
However, San Diego State created some distance moments later. Holding a 35-34 lead with 16:58 to play, the Aztecs went on a 12-3 run. Franklin tallied seven points during the surge, including a highlight reel dunk, to make it 47-37.
Trailing by seven, 58-51, with seven minutes to go, the Bulldogs went on an 11-3 burst to take the lead. Olekaibe's 3-pointer gave Fresno State a 62-61 edge with 2:51 left.
Franklin went 1-of-2 from the line at the other end to tie the game. It remained deadlocked until Winston Shepard made a free throw with 1:15 remaining to give San Diego State the lead.
Shepard blocked Anderson on the ensuing Fresno State possession. Shepard then pulled down an offensive rebound off Chase Tapley's missed jumper. Franklin followed with a pair of free throws to make it 65-62 San Diego State with 18 seconds to go.
"Winston loves the moment. He loves the pressure of the moment. He played very, very good basketball," San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said. "He had seven assists and two turnovers. He seized the floor with his size, and he got us some big baskets with his passing, and he made a couple of really nice plays down the stretch with the block and a big defensive rebound to help us come out with a tough, tough hard-fought victory."
Marvelle Harris missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
San Diego State led for the majority of the first half and took a 33-26 lead into the locker room.
The Aztecs hold a 55-48 advantage in the all-time series. San Diego State and Fresno State met for the first time as conference members since February of 1999, when both were in the Western Athletic Conference.