SAN DIEGO (AP) - Southern Utah had scored only five points through the first 15 minutes, and suddenly No. 24 San Diego State had a short-term goal.
'We weren't really worried about offense in this game,' Xavier Thames said. 'We were just mainly focusing on defense and getting stops and trying to hold them under 10 points in the first half. But I think they got 11. That was our main focus, just getting stops each and every possession.'
That they did. SDSU's defense never gave Southern Utah a chance and the Aztecs won a 76-39 laugher Wednesday night.
Thames scored 16 points, Josh Davis had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Aqeel Quinn added 14 points for the Aztecs (8-1), who had been off for nine days for finals.
SDSU was up 4-0 before Southern Utah touched the ball, thanks to Skylar Spencer's reverse layup and JJ O'Brien's basket off Skylar's missed free throw.
SDSU raced to leads of 21-2 and 37-4. It was 41-11 at halftime. The Thunderbirds made only two of their first 17 shots.
'I think the early start allowed us to dictate the pace and flow of the game,' coach Steve Fisher said. 'With the exception of our free throw shooting, I thought we played pretty effectively. We played hard and we did not give Southern Utah too many good, clean, easy looks.'
Fisher said he told assistant coach Justin Hutson to call off the full-court press after halftime and pick up the Thunderbirds at midcourt.
'But you want to play, and they don't want you to not try hard, obviously,' Fisher said. 'They are better than that. Even though their record is not very good, they've had some stretches where they played people closer. It's a game where you can get down and you can get down in a hole and not be able to dig out. Nobody feels sorry for anybody in this business, but you don't want any coach to be in a position where they're pressed and trapped for 40 minutes with a huge lead.'
Trey Kennedy had 10 points for Southern Utah (1-7).
'It's a great opportunity to play against a very good ranked San Diego State team,' Southern Utah coach Nick Robinson said. 'We didn't come out in the first half and step up to the challenge but we'll get back and watch film and try to improve as we prepare for our next game.
'We expect to execute offensively,' he added. 'We expect to play solid defense and our biggest emphasis coming into this game was taking care of the basketball and we didn't do that. San Diego State was able to take advantage of those opportunities and create a pretty big lead on us.
SDSU sophomore forward Winston Shepard didn't suit up due to unspecified conduct issues. Shepard was suspended for three games last season by the NCAA for violating an unspecified rule.
'You have a responsibility as a player to make sure you're representing first yourself, then the team, then the university, in a fashion that's fitting,' Fisher said. 'As a result of some things that Winston did, I chose not to play him, not to dress him.'
Fisher said Shepard will be in uniform and probably will play against McNeese State on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds had two shot-clock violations and a handful of air balls in the first half. Late in the first half, SDSU's student section, 'The Show,' appeared to dupe Kennedy into thinking the shot clock was winding down and he launched a 3-pointer with about 16 seconds still on the clock. He was fouled by Spencer and made all three free throws to make it 39-9.
The student section also chanted 'single digits' before Southern Utah's Juwan Major hit a jumper in the final seconds of the first half to pull to 40-11.
Southern Utah's 11 points in the first half were the second-fewest allowed in a Division I game this season and the fewest allowed in any half by SDSU since 1996-97.
The Aztecs were missing Dwayne Polee, who was ill.
Despite facing an outmanned opponent, the Aztecs still had some rough stretches and made only 11 of 28 free throws.
Southern Utah will play at the University of San Diego on Saturday and then take a break until opening Big Sky play at North Dakota on Jan. 2.
The Associated Press News Service
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