SAN DIEGO — The more San Diego State keeps winning, the more there will be comparisons with the great Aztecs team of 2010-11.
Xavier Thames scored 17 points, Winston Shepard had 16 and No. 5 San Diego State beat Nevada 73-58 on Saturday night to tie the school record with its 20th straight win.
The Aztecs (21-1, 10-0 Mountain West) matched the 20-game win streak by the 2010-11 team, which won its first 20 games before losing at BYU. That team was the first in school history to reach the NCAA round of 16 after getting the program’s first victories in the NCAA tournament. It finished 34-3, best in team history. The current Aztecs are the first to open league play 10-0.
“It’s a big achievement, not only for us, but for the school in general,” Dwayne Polee II said “We’ve been working very hard and that 34-3 team was a great team and we’re just trying to strive to be just as great, if not greater.”
SDSU was coming off a 67-65 win at Boise State in which it erased a 14-point deficit before winning on a 3-point shot by Polee with four seconds left.
“I’m surprised that anybody can win 20 in a row, no matter what league they’re playing in,” coach Steve Fisher said. “But the way we’ve played, the people we’ve beaten, I think all of us are going in expecting to win, but knowing that life, especially on the road, will be very difficult and sometimes you’ve got to get lucky. And we’ve been lucky a few times. We’ve created some good fortune but Polee’s basket at the buzzer very easily doesn’t go in and we go home with a loss. But it went in. Good teams are in position to win games.”
The Aztecs’ only loss was a 69-60 home defeat to then-No. 6 Arizona on Nov. 14.
Jerry Evans Jr. scored 17 points for Nevada (12-12, 7-4). The Aztecs held the MWC’s leading scorer, Deonte Burton, to 11 points, 10 below his average.
“That is a very good team,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “They are experienced and their athleticism and length really bothered us all night.
“They were in the press all night and they do a very good job of dictating the tempo for you. You make it across half court, you have about 20 seconds to run your offense and that took us out of our rhythm.”
After taking control late in the first half, San Diego State pulled away in the second half. The Aztecs went on a 7-0 run to go up 55-41 with 10:57 left. Aqeel Quinn hit a 3-pointer, JJ O’Brien made two free throws after he was fouled hard by Burton and Dwayne Polee had a steal and a layup.
After Nevada’s Michael Perez made a 3-pointer, Winston Shepard took a pass from Matt Shrigley for a baseline dunk and then made a layup for a 59-44 lead.
The Wolf Pack closed to 61-52 on a layup and 3-pointer by Evans before the Aztecs quickly pushed the lead back to 15. Josh Davis had a layup, Shepard a bank shot and Davis a steal and a slam dunk.
The Aztecs closed the first half on a 7-0 run — including two free throws and a layup by Josh Davis — for a 37-31 lead. It would have been a 9-0 run by Dwayne Polee missed an easy layup with three seconds left.
Shepard made two straight shots for a 30-26 lead before the Wolf Pack went up 31-30 on Ronnie Stevens’ shot off a rebound and AJ West’s three-point play.
“We just wanted to come out and play with urgency, build on the last game and just keep getting better,” Shepard said.
“That is a very good team. They are experienced and their athleticism and length really bothered us all night.”