BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Another stellar performance from Jamaal Franklin has San Diego State exactly where it wants to be heading into the regular season's final game.
Franklin had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 21st-ranked Aztecs to an easy 66-53 victory over Boise State on Wednesday night.
The win is the third straight for the Aztecs (23-6, 9-4 Mountain West) and keeps them in a tie for first place with New Mexico heading into Saturday's finales. Maybe more importantly, SDSU's runaway win - built on balanced scoring and aggressive defense - helps erase any doubts that emerged during a three-game skid last month, the team's longest losing streak in more than four years.
``I have said all along this is as enjoyable a group I've had the privilege being associated with,' said coach Steve Fisher, who has 10 seasons with at least 23 wins. ``They do a great job of playing selfless and that's easy to say and hard to do. We've talked about sharing the ball, not worrying about anything but final results. We've done a pretty good job of that and I think a testament to each of the kids that we've got on this team.'
Franklin led the way early, scoring 12 points in the first half as SDSU built a 38-22 lead. Franklin, the leading scorer in the conference, has scored in double figures in 16 straight games, and his totals Wednesday give him double-digit points and rebounds in 10 games this season.
Tim Shelton and Chase Tapley both scored 11 points and Xavier Thames added 10 for the Aztecs, who shot 50 percent from the field and posted a 30-28 rebounding advantage in their first-ever visit to Taco Bell Arena.
The Broncos (13-15, 3-10) were just 2 of 16 from behind the 3-point arc and shot 44 percent from the free throw line en route to their third straight loss.
Derrick Marks led the Broncos with 13 points and Anthony Drimic had 10 points and a team-best five rebounds.
Broncos coach Leon Rice, whose team lost to the Aztecs by two points earlier this season, was exasperated with all aspects of his team's play against the Aztecs.
``That's where it begins,' Rice said of his team's poor shooting. ``I'm just disappointed in 11 of 25 from the line and 2 of 16 from 3. Those are things that disappointed me the most.'
Boise State surged early in the second half, at one point cutting the lead to 41-30 when Marks hit a short jumper with 15:20 left in the game. But Franklin and the Aztecs never let the Broncos get any closer.
On the next possession, Franklin hit two free throws, triggering a 16-6 run over the next 7 minutes. James Rahon's 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark gave the Aztecs a 57-36 lead, their biggest of the game.
But Fisher said the difference was the way his team played early then maintained pressure on both ends of the court the entire game. The Aztecs shot 60 percent in the first half and forced Boise State into turnovers and hurried shots.
``I told them at halftime that's as good a half, if you look at both sides of the ball, as we have played in an important game,' Fisher said. ``We made shots obviously. But we also did a good job of challenging, contesting. I thought our first half really set the tone for the victory.'
SDSU closes out the season at TCU on Saturday and New Mexico wraps up at home against the Broncos.
The Associated Press News Service
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