FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- In a crucial second-half stretch, Xavier Thames didn't miss.
Thames hit four perimeter shots, including two from 3-point range in a three-minute stretch, and finished with 23 points to help No. 21 San Diego State fend off Colorado State 71-61 on Wednesday night for its 10th straight win.
"I just wanted to kind of take over the game," Thames said. "We were up by only six or so, and I just wanted to come down and make some plays, make some plays for my teammates. And my teammates gave me the ball so the credit goes to them."
Colorado State had pulled within 52-46 midway through the second half before Thames cut off the Rams' rally with his 10-point flurry.
"When they made their run, we found a way to right the ship and make a couple of plays to never let them get within two or three," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "And it's hard when you're always fighting from behind and look up and even when you're making plays to cut it to six, the next thing you know, it's back up to nine. So yeah, we made plays at crucial moments, when flow, momentum and everything else was going the other way, and that's what you have to do to win."
Winston Shepard scored 17 points and Josh Davis had seven points and 15 rebounds for the Aztecs (11-1, 1-0 Mountain West), who won their seventh straight conference opener in tying the second-best 12-game start in school history.
San Diego State hasn't lost since Nov. 14, when it had a 69-60 setback against Arizona, now the No. 1 team in the country.
"I think we can be pretty good," Thames said. "I think we can win the league, as long as we do the little things, stay focused and cut down on our turnovers. We've got a really good team."
The Aztecs dominated Colorado State (9-5, 0-1) in the paint, outscoring the Rams 40-16 from up close and outshooting them from the field 48.2 percent to 38.5.
"This wasn't lack of effort. It's from lack of experience," Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. "We didn't carry the game plan into the league. We knew they rebounded well off missed turnovers. They miss a lot of them and practice running down rebounds. They had six of their offensive rebounds on missed free throws."
Trailing by nine points at halftime, the Rams narrowed the deficit to four on a jumper by Joe De Ciman in the opening minutes of the second half. The Aztecs responded with a 10-3 run that included a three-point play by Shepard and a 3-pointer by Aqeel Quinn to rebuild their lead to 50-39.
After Colorado State made another push to get within six, Thames went on his run, and the Aztecs led 62-52 with 6:23 remaining.
Colorado State got no closer than seven points the rest of the way with San Diego State maintaining the lead by making just enough free throws down the stretch.
The Aztecs closed the first half with a 7-0 run over 2 1/2 minutes, taking a 36-27 lead.
Colorado State got within 29-27 on two free throws by De Ciman, but JJ O'Brien converted a three-point play to trigger the Aztecs' closing burst. Thames' running jumper just before the first-half buzzer capped it.
San Diego State improved to 5-0 away from home this season in winning for the first time in its past three trips to Colorado State.
"I want to get any win, but this one I was really looking forward to because I hadn't won here in the past two years that I've been here. So, I'm glad we got this," Thames said.
Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari on Thursday apologized to Rick Pitino if the Cardinals coach interpreted his recent comment about scandals on campus as directed toward Louisville.
College basketball coaches across the country will hit the recruiting trail hard in July to target the Class of 2017's top prospects. Which players are the nation's top programs targeting?
Sport Science examines Ben Simmons' max vertical and passing ability, as well as concerns about his jump shot.