First Step in the Right Direction

No. 16 San Diego State began conference play by defeating Fresno State 65-62. Highlighted by Jamaal Franklin's memorable performance and Winston Shepard's career night...

It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. This is the Mountain West.

"I knew it was going to be a real close game, first game on the road and in conference play," Jamaal Franklin said.

Franklin was right as No. 16 San Diego State (13-2, 1-0) began conference play by defeating Fresno State 65-62 in a nail-biter.

"We did all the above and found a way to win," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. "We were far from perfect but we found a way to win. When you get a victory in this league especially a road victory. Doesn't matter who you play you better be thankful and I'm very thankful that we got it."

The Bulldogs fought hard throughout the ball game, not going away after taking punch after punch. FSU even took their only lead of the second half with less than three minutes to play.

"They made some big shots," Fisher said. "They made some big threes in that game to bring them back. This is a team that people are going to have a struggle with. They guard hard. They never quit and I would say the same thing with our club."

Reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin continued where he left off last year with 20 points, career-high 18 rebounds and 5 assists.

Most importantly he made a pair of clutch free throws with 18 seconds left to push the Aztecs lead to three.

Something he couldn't do in the loss to No. 3 Arizona in the Diamond Head Classic Championship.

"I'm not nervous when it comes down to that time," Franklin said of the final free throws. "I want the ball at that time. I tell coach to run plays for me during clutch time. I want the ball in my hands."

"So when I was going to the free throw line tonight I'm thinking about Arizona. I stressed to myself that I need to make these shots next time. I don't want to miss when it comes down to crunch time."

Fresno State (6-8, 0-1) had a chance that following possession to tie the game but couldn't get off a clean look at the basket. Freshman Marvelle Harris missed a contested three-point shot as time expired.

"We stayed tough on our men," Fisher explained the last sequence of the game. "We used our length. Did not give them where they could a comfortable three out of it. I thought we did a really good job."

"Our goal with a three-point lead was to switch any kind of a ball screen and I thought we did a nice job finding a way to give them an easy look. They took a hard three at the end for sure."

SDSU pulled out the hard fought victory but coach Fisher knows his team has much to learn from this game.

"I told our team that I'm going to save all the things that we need to do for the bus ride home for tomorrow," Fisher said after the win. "But I don't know if I have many teams that could have came in here and won a game the way it went.

The Aztecs will play Colorado State at Viejas Arena on Saturday. Rams were the lone Mountain West team not in action on Wednesday night.

"They have a week to prepare," Fisher said. "We will be ready,"

Career Night

Winston Shepard earned his first career start in place of injured point guard Xavier Thames (back). He didn't let opportunity go to waste.

The highly touted freshman had 4 points, tied career-high 7 rebounds, career-high 7 assists and career-high 2 blocked shots in a career-high 34 minutes.

Not to mention Shepard had multiple game winning plays down the stretch including a blocked shot with 55 seconds left to ultimately win the game for the Aztecs.

"Winston [Shepard] loves the moment, he loves the pressure of the moment," Fisher said. "He played very, very good basketball. He had seven assists and two turnovers. He sees the floor with his size."

"He got us some big baskets with his passing and made some really nice plays down the stretch with a block and big defensive rebound to help us come out with a tough hard fought victory."

If Shepard continues this recent outstanding play it won't be long until he supplants himself into the starting lineup.

MVP is Back, Call Him J Frank

It was with 15:13 left in the second half when Jamaal Franklin tore down his 10th rebound of the game. He then began the fast break where magic would occur soon after.

Franklin crossed the center court stripe dribbling at full speed, looked off his defender, and then from the three-point line threw a lob to himself off the glass for a ridiculous slam dunk!

"That's just me being myself," Franklin said of his dunk. "…A lot of players wouldn't do that. I'm thankful for my teammates having confidence in me."

Literally seconds after the dunk, the twitter world blew up. Later Wednesday night the jaw dropping play earned the top spot on SportsCenter's top 10 plays.

Finishing Notes

-Senior shooting guard James Rahon eclipsed 1,000-point mark for his career with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc on the night.

-At 67 years old head coach Steve Fisher showed he still has fire in him by picking up an uncharacteristic technical foul in the first half.

"I tried not to complain on every call but he [referee Scott Thornley] was edgy tonight," Fisher said. "When I made the comment. I didn't swear. I just said the same thing I said before and obviously he didn't like what he heard."

"Maybe we'll go another 10 years before I get another one."

-Shooting guard Chase Tapley had a tough game with only 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

"Chase Tapley struggled today," Franklin said. "He had a lot of pressure on him, shadowing him the whole game."

- The Aztecs held Fresno State to 36.2% shooting. It's the 11th time this season that opponents have been held to a field goal percentage of 40% or less.

-Multiple major winning streaks stayed alive for San Diego State:

  • 32nd straight vs. teams from the state of California.

  • Mountain West Conference record sixth consecutive league opener.

  • 25 straight games when leading at the half.

  • 83 straight games when leading with five minutes to play.

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