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Fisher: Aztecs motivated to win another title

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The No. 8 San Diego State Aztecs ended the regular season with a nine-point win at UNLV and a thrilling rally at home against New Mexico that gave them the outright Mountain West Conference title.

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Now they have to win three games in three days to claim the conference tournament title, which is why coach Steve Fisher doesn't think the Aztecs' trip to Las Vegas this week will be anticlimactic.

''Hopefully we'll be more motivated to be greedy and get two championships in the span of a week,'' Fisher said Tuesday.

The Aztecs (27-3) are still on an emotional high after rallying from a 16-point deficit to beat New Mexico 51-48 on Saturday night. The biggest comeback since Fisher took over at SDSU in the 1999-2000 season gave the Aztecs the No. 1 tournament seed. They get a first-round bye and will play at noon Thursday against the winner of Wednesday night's Utah State-Colorado State game.

Barring any upsets, the Aztecs will have to beat UNLV and New Mexico again in order to win the tournament.

''Obviously, if we don't win it will be a little bit of a downer,'' Fisher said. ''I think you have to have another challenge and motivation, and that's something to look forward to also. That was part of our thought of the day yesterday: Congratulations, now it's the next opportunity, next challenge.''

SDSU last won the conference tournament in 2010-11. It was eliminated in each of the last two seasons by New Mexico, including in the title game two seasons ago.

On Saturday night, the Aztecs appeared headed toward their second double-digit loss to the Lobos in two weeks. They trailed 41-25 with 12:05 left when Fisher took assistant coach Justin Hutson's suggestion that the Aztecs switch from man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone.

That switch completely neutralized Lobos big men Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, and launched the Aztecs on a 19-1 run.

Fisher doubts the Aztecs would use zone for 19 straight possessions like they did against the Aztecs, but they'll be quicker to switch to it if needed.

''I think teams will spend a little time on what they'll do against the zone, so that's probably good for us, too, where they have to take some practice time to use on that,'' Fisher said. ''I really don't know how much we'll use it in the tournament. We may do it a lot, we may not do it at all. We'll see what happens.

''I think you have to factor in who you're playing, how good of shooters they have, and if you get back-to-back-to-back baskets from the perimeter made on you, you're probably going to pull out of it,'' Fisher said. ''But the fact that we played it 19 possessions to end the game and really have that be a huge piece in winning the game, your kids and coaches and fans are saying, `When are you going to use it?' And some will say, `Why didn't you use it' if you don't use it. My premise is we're a good man-to-man defensive team. We've proven that and have been very successful with it. I think you can spot it in and use it. Because of its success, we may try it a little sooner. What happens when we're in it will dictate how long we will stay in it.''

A month earlier, the Aztecs rallied from 14 down at Boise State to win 67-65.

To the Aztecs, there's really not a point of no return if they get down, even by double digits.

''It's not that big of a deal,'' forward Josh Davis said. ''We just know we have to kick it up another gear. We play every possession as hard as we can, no matter what the score is. Defense is one of our biggest staples so no matter what happens, we just play as hard as we can.''

---

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
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