FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Sweet 16 for San Diego State was a steal - and a dunkfest.
The sixth-ranked Aztecs had four dunks and five steals - four on turnovers by TCU scoring leader Ronnie Moss - in a game-turning 3-minute run soon after halftime and stretched their season-opening winning streak to 16 in a row with a 66-53 victory over TCU on Wednesday night.
``Every time we get a run, it's our defense. We're stealing a ball, blocking shots, that's how we try to get our runs,' Kawhi Leonard said. ``In the second half, we came out and focused on (Moss), got him to force the four turnovers, and that's when we got our run going.'
San Diego State's 13-0 run started with Malcolm Thomas' dunk, and then he had the first steal of Moss. That was followed by a highlight ally-oop play with a pass from Chase Tapley.
A pair of steals by Leonard led to consecutive breakaway slams - one of his own and another by Tapley that pushed the Aztecs to a 49-31 lead over TCU (9-7) in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
``We just said guard hard and smart, keep them out of the paint, challenge as hard as you can every three,' coach Steve Fisher said. ``They had second-chance points (in the first half) that we didn't give them in the second half. The way we guarded in the second half was the key to the game.'
San Diego State's 16-game winning streak is the second-longest in the country, trailing only the 24 wins in a row by defending national champion Duke.
The Aztecs have the longest winning streak in the 90-year history of the program. It is the most consecutive wins ever at the start of a season for Fisher in his 20 seasons as a head coach - 12 at San Diego State and eight at Michigan. His 1992-93 Wolverines won their first 12 games and played in the NCAA title game that season.
In their Mountain West opener, the undefeated Aztecs did pretty much the same thing they have been doing to non-conference opponents. They put the game out of reach with a strong second half, including yet another extended scoring run.
``I kind of did expect it (the second-half run),' Thomas said. ``But if we want to get to where we want to go, we can't play just half games.'
The 13-0 run was already the Aztecs' 22nd scoring spurt this season of at least nine consecutive points. And it was part of a bigger 30-6 scoring surge that spanned halftime.
Thomas finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Leonard had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tapley had 12 points.
Garlon Green had 13 points for TCU, while Nikola Cerina had 12 and Moss 11 on 5-of-15 shooting while going just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers with six turnovers. J.R. Cadot had 12 rebounds.
``We're down three (at halftime) to the No. 6 team in the country, we shot 33 percent in our building, so we should be feeling good,' TCU coach Jim Christian said. ``But then they came out and took it right to us. ... It's really more about us than them; if you turn the ball over, you turn the ball over; they didn't change anything, they just got a little more aggressive defensively and we got a little more careless with the ball.'
TCU had half of its 12 steals in the opening 6 minutes of the second half.
Even before that 13-0 run, Leonard set the tone after halftime with a strong inside basket, and Thomas then drove for a layup while being fouled and made the free throw. Then Billy White had an impressive block, slapping the ball out of Moss' hands from behind with such force that it ricocheted off the backboard out past the 3-point arc - and that led to a one-handed hard slam by Thomas.
James Rahon hit consecutive 3-pointers, the first from the top of the key as the shot clock expired, to start a 10-1 run for the Aztecs that put them up 29-26 at halftime. Those were Rahon's only points.
Brian Carlwell then had a layup and a slam dunk to wrap up the first half.
TCU had led 25-19 when Cerina made an inside layup. That came right after Cadot's scooping assist to Green, who grabbed the ball in midair and slammed it.
The Associated Press News Service
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