During warm-ups, Josh Davis stood on the baseline, chatting up San Diego State assistant coach David Velasquez as his teammates ran drills. Davis was suited up, but in those minutes before the Aztecs’ meeting with Colorado State, a team that prides itself on physicality under the basket, it was clear SDSU was going to play its first game as the fifth-ranked team in the country without its biggest and best rebounder. Thus was an upset in the waiting, a plausible excuse for the team some observers keep expecting to crumble. Apparently, this Aztecs team isn’t much into cop outs. San Diego State matched the Rams with 40 rebounds, held CSU’s leading scorer, J.J Avila, to a scoreless first half and nine points total, and guard Xavier Thames kept up his impressive pace with 24 points as the Aztecs won 65-56 before a sellout crowd at Viejas Arena. With 17 points, sophomore forward Winston Shepard was the only other Aztec to score in double figures, but six other players contributed to the tally. It was a nice, deep team win on a day of milestones. Coach Steve Fisher reached 300 victories at SDSU, becoming only the 18th leader at one program to do so. And the 18th straight win put the Aztecs at 8-0 in the Mountain West -- the first time they've gone undefeated this deep into any league schedule in 93 years. The players joked that they “jumped” on Fisher in the locker room afterward, though it likely was more of a bunch of soft pats for the 68-year-old. Thames delivered to him the game ball. “We got him to smile,” Shephard said with a satisfied grin. Fisher admitted he wasn’t sure how the game was going to play out without Davis, who had a team-best 15 rebounds in SDSU’s New Year’s Day win at Colorado State to open the conference schedule. How big is he on the boards? Davis entered the week with 13 consecutive double-digit rebound games. But the 6-feet-8 senior felt a pain in his right knee during Monday’s practice, and by Wednesday the team was concerned enough to have him undergo an MRI. The results were negative for any structural damage and Davis was diagnosed with a bone bruise. “We knew he wasn’t going to start, but I hoped he would play,” Fisher said. It was obvious in drills Davis wouldn’t be able to go, and then Fisher also lost forward Dwayne Polee to illness early in the game. This is how the Aztecs managed: junior guard Aqeel Quinn got his first start and scored eight, Shephard transitioned from the back court to play bigger inside, and J.J. O’Brien shut down Avila while getting a team-high 10 rebounds. The Aztecs (19-1) also accomplished a stat Fisher loves: They scored 23 points by drawing 34 free throws (Thames was 12-for-12); CSU only had 18 shots from the line, scoring 12. The Rams (12-10, 3-6) can argue that they were missing their own important cog, but that loss was self-inflicted. Daniel Bejarano, CSU’s second-leading scorer, played only three minutes and didn’t score a point. He was benched after angrily charging his coach, Larry Eustachy, during an early timeout. An assistant coach had to hold Bejarano back. “Daniel, he’s got a lot of growing up to do,” Eustachy said afterward.
SDSU beats Rams 65-56, gives Fisher 300 wins
San Diego Union-Tribune | Feb 2