Fresno State gave San Diego State its first challenge in weeks, narrowing the gap in the waning minutes Thursday, but the Aztecs prevailed to capture their seventh straight win, 67-53.
The Bulldogs (9-8, 7-8 in Mountain West) drew within nine with 3:47 left in the game, when Kyle Harding hit a three-pointer, but Matt Mitchell answered with a fadeaway jumper to restore the Aztecs’ double-digit lead. They did not relinquish it again.
Mitchell, in his first game without the brace he’s worn since he injured his knee last month, had 19 points. Trey Pulliam scored 18 and coach Brian Dutcher called his performance “by far Trey’s best offensive game as an Aztec.”
Dutcher had warned that in facing Fresno State on their home court, No. 25 SDSU (16-4, 10-3 in MW) was “stepping up in weight class” after a series of blowout wins against conference also-rans.
That prediction played out immediately when the Bulldogs started the game on an 11-0 run – one that followed a Pulliam steal and missed layup. Dutcher called a timeout to slow the momentum.
“I’ve got a veteran team,” he said. “They didn’t get rattled by it.”
Instead they embarked on their own 19-0 run, outscoring Fresno State 32-9 the remainder of the half.
Pulliam started the second half hot, scoring 10 in just over three minutes of play as the Aztecs built a 21-point lead with 11 minutes to go. After Fresno State cut the advantage down to nine, they failed to score the rest of the game.
San Diego State shot 48% in the contest and held the Bulldogs to 33% shooting.
SDSU faces Fresno again at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, in a game to air on CBS Sports Network.