San Diego State came into Saturdayâ€™s game at Moby Arena with an 11-game winning streak and a No. 12 ranking in the coachâ€™s poll, but left with students storming the court after a 77-60 CSU win.
â€œI said to one of my assistants, â€˜is the music better tonight?â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œIt was pretty awesome.â€
CSU rode the momentum from the crowd to a dominating performance, never leading by less than double digits after a pair of free throws from junior Wes Eikmeier with 1:16 left in the first half.
â€œWe knew if we didnâ€™t play defense we werenâ€™t going to win,â€ senior forward Will Bell said.
Bell finished with 17 points, second to Eikmeierâ€™s team-high 19. Overall four Rams scored in double digits to lead a balanced attack that CSU got away from in its last two games â€” both road losses.
â€œWe saw what we were doing wrong, and they know how we can play and how weâ€™re supposed to play,â€ Miles said. â€œI think it was just that self-recognition, and we played how we have to play to be successful.â€
The Rams carried a 12-point lead into halftime and didnâ€™t give up a field goal in the second half until Xavier Thamesâ€™ layup with 13:15 remaining.
â€œWe knew they were going to try to come at us hard and try and attack the rim,â€ Eikmeier said. â€œOur emphasis at halftime was to stay solid on defense because if we let up at all, that lead we had would shrink down real quick.â€
The Aztecs never led by more than three in the game. Sophomore Jamaal Franklin gave them that margin with 14:18 left in the first half, but CSU went on a 15-4 run to take the lead and never looked back.
â€œThey set the tone early, they built confidence in themselves early,â€ SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. â€œWe were beaten today. We had a difficult time making shots.â€
San Diego State shot 31.3 percent from the field and only hit 3-of-21 behind the arc.
â€œI think we caught them on a bad shooting night; thatâ€™s why we were able to extend (the lead),â€ Miles said.
CSU won for the first time in two weeks, following ugly performances on the road against Wyoming and New Mexico.
â€œWe know how bad we can be, and we know how good we can be,â€ Eikmeier said. â€œThe idea is to build off this.â€
In those road losses CSU struggled to rebound at all, but flipped the script against SDSU and out-rebounded the Aztecs 40-30.
â€œWe made it a point to keep them off the glass,â€ junior Pierce Hornung said. Hornung finished with a game-high 13 rebounds, with 11 of them on defense.
The Rams also excelled from the free throw line, making 23-23 from the charity stripe to set a Mountain West record.
Even with the programâ€™s first victory over a ranked team since 2003, CSU refused to place too much weight on the one win.
â€œWe canâ€™t think that weâ€™re going to make the tournament, or people are going to respect us now,â€ Bell said. â€œItâ€™s not done yet.â€
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Score: SDSU-60 CSU-77
SDSU shooting: 31.3 percent, 3-21 form three point range
CSU rebounds: 40, 34 on defense
CSU free throw shooting: 23-23 (MW record)