Well rested and possibly re-energized, San Diego State is poised to maintain its early success while beginning a favorable stretch of its schedule.
The No. 24 Aztecs try for a seventh straight victory Wednesday night while looking to continue visiting Southern Utah's current struggles against fellow Division I opponents.San Diego State (7-1) concluded an undefeated stretch of five games in 11 days when it rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to beat Washington 70-63 on Dec. 8. The Aztecs have won the last four by a combined 22 points."The 10-day break could not have come sooner for us," coach Steve Fisher said.SDSU showed its fatigue while shooting 27.6 percent in the first half and being outrebounded 41-31 by the Huskies overall. However, it opened the second half with a 17-2 run and went 15 of 25 from the field in the final 20 minutes."We all missed our shots, but we didn't hang our heads," said guard Xaxier Thames, who had a game-high 19 points.Thames averages a team-leading 17.4 and is 18 of 35 (51.4 percent) from beyond the arc, but might benefit from the break after going 2 of 8 from 3 in the last two contests.The Aztecs averaged 77.6 points and shot 48.0 percent in the first five games, but are scoring an average of 67.3 on 39.3 percent shooting in the last three versus Marquette, San Diego and Washington. However, they've held opponents to 69 or fewer points in all but one game this season."Our big focus between now and the start of conference play is to get ourselves better," Fisher said. "And the good news is we've got a lot of room to grow, and hopefully we will."San Diego State could receive a boost to its bench Wednesday if 6-foot-10 James Johnson returns after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.Fisher's team has a few opportunities to fine-tune things during this upcoming three-game stretch that includes a visit from McNeese State on Saturday and St. Katherine College of the NAIA on Dec. 27 before opening Mountain West Conference play at Colorado State on New Year's Day.San Diego State has won 15 in a row and 61 of its last 64 home games against unranked non-conference opponents. The Aztecs will be looking for a third straight victory over Southern Utah (1-6) after improving to 2-2 all-time in the series with a 70-37 home victory Nov. 12, 2011.The Thunderbirds have averaged 54.7 points and shot 33.5 percent while losing six in a row by an average of 25.6 points since opening the season with an 85-78 win over NAIA Arizona Christian.Southern Utah has dropped 14 of its last 16 games, including 11 straight against Division I opponents since a 73-72 home win over Cal State-Northridge on Feb. 23. The Thunderbirds also look to end a 15-game non-conference road skid that dates to a 66-58 win at Cal State-Bakersfield on Nov. 17, 2010.At 12.0 points per game, freshman guard Trey Kennedy is the only Thunderbird averaging in double figures. He had 10 during a 73-51 home loss to UNLV on Saturday.