FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — San Diego State won’t make any scoring highlight reels with games like its one against Fresno State, yet the Aztecs might make it deep into the NCAA Tournament.
In a contest in which they had no 3-point game, the No. 7 Aztecs relied on a suffocating defense to shut down Fresno State 64-55 on Tuesday night.
San Diego State (18-0, 7-0 Mountain West Conference) remains one of two unbeaten teams in Division 1, along with Auburn. The Aztecs extended two nation-leading streaks: 18 consecutive victories, and nine straight road or neutral-site wins.
“I was leaving the hotel (earlier) and saw Clemson beat Duke on the road,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “I told these guys, ‘Everyone knows you’re ranked and they bring their best effort. Enjoy every one of them. What you’re doing is not easy. Winning on the road is the hardest thing in basketball. Your perfect record on the road is unheard of.”
San Diego State hasn’t been 18-0 since the 2013-14 team advanced to the Sweet 16. The Aztecs experienced just their fifth victory by single digits, due in part to an offense that missed 15 of 18 3-point attempts and had no offensive rebounds in the first 30 minutes.
“Both teams did a good job on defense,” said guard Malachi Flynn, who led all scorers with 20 points. “They did a really good job of making us make shots.”
It took a 7-0 run in the final 5:32 of the first half to give the Aztecs a 26-21 lead at the break, and a meandering 11-6 run to open the second half for a 37-27 lead. The latter run was punctuated by Flynn’s midcourt steal and layup.
A 10-point lead qualified as a blowout, the way the Aztecs play defense. Fresno State (5-12, 1-5) shot 28.6% in the first half, and 36.4% overall.
“Points were hard to come by,” Dutcher said. “You have to love the game to enjoy that game. We can suffer through bad offense because our defense is so good. We may struggle shooting but we’re going to be in the game because our defense never falters.
“Defense travels,"he said.
Orlando Robinson led the Bulldogs with 18 points.
San Diego State: The Aztecs led the entire second half, avoiding an upset loss to the seventh-place Bulldogs, who had won seven of the previous 10 games in the series, including four of the past five at the Save Mart Center. The victory gave San Diego State the series sweep and extended its conference lead to two games over New Mexico and UNLV.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs dropped to 1-5 in conference play for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The Bulldogs welcomed junior starters Nate Grimes (wrist) and Noah Blackwell (knee) back to the lineup, with limited results. The juniors combined for six points in 49 minutes.
San Diego State: Hosts Nevada on Saturday. Nevada has not win at Viejas Stadium in the past six tries in conference play.
Fresno State: At Wyoming on Saturday. Wyoming remains winless in conference play after Tuesday’s 68-67 loss at Nevada.