SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State made New Mexico pay for playing zone defense the whole game.
Once again needing a pick-me-up after a tough loss, the Aztecs got it by beating the Lobos 97-77 on Tuesday night.
Jalen McDaniels had 24 points and 11 rebounds while freshman Aguek Arop made a 65-foot shot at the halftime buzzer and Devin Watson made three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half.
Watson finished with 21 points, freshman Nathan Mensah had 16 and Arop and Jordan Schakel 10 each for SDSU (10-7, 2-2 Mountain West).
SDSU's 30 assists were its most in a MWC game, and the 97 points tied for the school's most in a regulation MWC game. Jeremy Hemsley and Matt Mitchell had nine assists apiece.
"Our zone offense is so much better than our man offense," coach Brian Dutcher said. "I told the team that we might not see zone the rest of the year the way you guys played against zone. ... We played the right way. The task is, over the next six days before we play again, can we get our man offense to look anything like that.
"The thing about zone offense is I don't call the players' numbers on offense," Dutcher added. "We just put in the high post-low post and we move the ball. And then once I start calling plays for players, the thing is, can we now run that play and share the ball the same way and create shots for each other like we do? We've done that at times, but obviously we haven't done it enough."
McDaniels got the ball plenty against the Lobos' 1-3-1 zone and made 10 of 19 shots.
"They did a good job of getting it inside to him and he was good tonight," Lobos coach Paul Weir said.
Anthony Mathis scored 21, Vance Jackson 16 and Carlton Bragg 12 for New Mexico (8-9, 2-3).
The game's highlight came when Arop stole the ball, took a few steps and launched his three-quarters-court shot, which swished at the buzzer to give the Aztecs a 44-39 halftime lead.
"That shot he hit from three-quarters court was incredible," Dutcher said. "That was fun to see. That's a memory he'll take with him forever, and I'll remember it."
Said Weir: "The last play of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half was really the difference in the game. For 19 ½ minutes we did OK. We weren't perfect but we controlled the ball and they weren't making 3s."
Arop's long shot and Watson's 3-point barrage in the opening minutes of the second half gave the Aztecs some breathing room. Watson's third 3-pointer gave SDSU a 53-41 lead.
Arop scored 10 points in the first half and Mensah had 12. Mensah scored 10 of the Aztecs' first 17 points in the first five minutes and had 12 of their first 25.
The two freshmen combined to go 10 for 10 in the first half.
SDSU had a 19-8 lead behind Mensah's opening salvo but New Mexico clawed its way back and trailed just 23-22 after the third 3-pointer in 2 ½ minutes by Mathis. Mathis had four 3-pointers in scoring 13 points in the first half.
New Mexico: The Lobos have lost three straight since opening MWC play with an 85-58 upset of then-No. 5 Nevada at home on Jan. 5. They followed that up by losing at home against UNLV, at Colorado State and then at SDSU.
San Diego State: The Aztecs were coming off a 62-48 loss at Air Force in which they cut a 16-point deficit to four points, but couldn't finish the comeback.
New Mexico hosts Wyoming on Saturday.
San Diego State is at Fresno State next Tuesday night. Justin Hutson, a former longtime SDSU assistant, is in his first season as the Bulldogs' coach.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25