San Diego State carries a lengthy win streak into the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, and it's hoping Jamaal Franklin is healthy enough to help keep that going.
The 18th-ranked Aztecs' star player is dealing with an ailing back ahead of Saturday's tournament opener against San Francisco, which features one of the nation's best rebounders.San Diego State has won nine in a row since a season-opening 62-49 loss to then-No. 9 Syracuse on Nov. 11, taking its past four games by an average of 17.2 points. The Aztecs had little trouble with visiting Point Loma Nazarene on Tuesday, shooting 54.9 percent in a 76-49 rout.Xavier Thames led the way with 17 points and Chase Tapley contributed 15 as San Diego State earned its 29th consecutive win over an in-state opponent and 22nd in a row in December while Franklin, averaging team highs of 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds, sat out.Coach Steve Fisher said the Mountain West Conference preseason player of the year's back problems might be caused by an earlier hamstring injury. While Franklin might return Saturday, Fisher won't have reserve guard LaBradford Franklin available for the tournament as he's dealing with a family issue."If we had played a conference game, we probably would have played (Franklin), but we felt it was in our best interests that he not play," Fisher said. "Jamaal's injury is one that will hopefully get taken care of before it gets serious."San Diego State might not need Franklin to get past the slumping Dons (5-4), who have dropped three in a row while shooting 38.0 percent.They missed 15 of 20 shots from 3-point range in a 73-63 home loss to Holy Cross on Tuesday. Cody Doolin matched a season high with 18 points and Cole Dickerson, among the nation's leaders with 13.1 rebounds per game, had 17 points and 17 boards.De'End Parker, a junior transfer from UCLA, is averaging a team-best 15.4 points for the Dons but has scored 7.0 per game on 23.3 percent shooting during the losing streak.San Francisco is facing San Diego State for the first time since a 62-56 loss to the then-No. 7 Aztecs in Las Vegas on Dec. 21, 2010. The teams have split four all-time meetings.The Dons upset then-No. 24 Gonzaga 66-65 on Feb. 18 in their most recent game with a Top 25 team, but they've lost their past eight against ranked non-conference opponents.The winner of this game will play Mississippi or Indiana State on Sunday.