San Diego State traveled to Reno (Nev.) coming off an embarrassing 58-45 loss at Wyoming.
The Aztecs bounced back how experienced tournament teams are supposed to.
"I think what we did was what I expected to," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said after the game. "We are a veteran ball club that knows how to win and to a man they were looking in the mirror when we got off that plane from Wyoming."
"The victory tonight started on Sunday when we came in for film and our veterans, starting with Jamaal [Franklin] made a couple comments."
Franklin made his voice heard and his comments quite clear.
"Told them before the game that we don't want to have a repeat of Wyoming and have them rush the floor on us," SDSU forward Jamaal Franklin said. "That's the worst feeling as a basketball player when you see a team rush the floor on you as you lose."
That new mindset translated to practice.
"He [Franklin] and Chase [Tapley] have done a great job of demanding, first of themselves then of everyone else that practices be better," Fisher said. "We have not been what a championship team should be like in practice."
A great few days of practice carried over to SDSU's 78-57 victory over Nevada on Wednesday night.
"We had the concentration you have to have if you want to win," Fisher explained. "I was not surprised we came out and defended the way we did. Early on we got that 26-12 lead strictly on how we guarded which created offense. Turnovers led to transition and baskets for them to get them right back in the game. It was a collective effort and wonderful win for us."
"I usually put up keys to success, I put up four to five things and two or three things like runs, turnovers. Tonight the only thing I put up was compete, compete smart, compete together and compete if there were no tomorrow. That's what I put up. That was the focus; compete because we didn't compete at Wyoming."
San Diego State (15-4, 3-2) must compete to the highest level when New Mexico (17-2, 4-0) heads to Viejas Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Point guard Xavier Thames (back) was a game-time decision all the way up to tip-off. He went through pre-game warm ups and his status was still up in the air. It was just minutes before the game that the news trickled out that he would play but not start.
"He gives us a boost on our side of the floor," Fisher said. "Our players rely on him, count on him, depend on him and expect him where he's suppose to be. He was far from vintage Xavier Thames but he competed."
In 20 minutes the non-100% Thames finished with 8 points on 2-of-5 shooting with an assist.
"It always feels good when you have all your teammates, soldiers and generals healthy and ready to play," Franklin said of Thames playing.
"I feel our team is a puzzle. If you're missing a piece of the puzzle it's not going to be finished, it's not going to be complete. We need everybody on this team to be healthy."
Thames was seen post-halftime standing behind the bench with his back wrapped. He entered the second half at the 13:47 mark and picked up his third and fourth fouls less than a minute later.
Fisher trusted his veteran leader by keeping him in the 3-point ball game.
"Mark Fisher said leave him in, don't take him out," Fisher explained. "I yo-yo'd him out one time when he got his second foul in a situation where he only played about a minute. We said lets go with it; see if he can stay in front of a guy. If he fouls out we didn't have him the last couple games anyways. He did a nice job of knowing how to play."
It was the right decision as Thames was on the floor for an Aztecs 24-7 run during the next nine minutes.
Ultimate Team Player
Forward J.J. O'Brien had an outstanding first half with 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting with a pair of rebounds and assists.
"I thought J.J. O'Brien played terrific for us in the first half," Fisher said. "He's such a consummate team player. We took him out and had a group in that went on like a 19-7 run. He wasn't in there. I felt badly and I went down late in the game and he said coach don't worry about me. I want to win. That says it all about who he is."
The problem lately for the Utah transfer has been finishing around the basket, that some could say cost the Aztecs the game against UNLV but it wasn't a problem versus the Wolf Pack.
"J.J. stepped up real big," Franklin added. "J.J. told me he was going to finish the ball today and he did exactly what he said. He kept his word."
Aztec fans are hoping he keeps it up all season.
-SDSU snapped a two-game losing streak and avoided what would have been its second three-game in-season losing streak in its last 170 games dating back to Feb. 13, 2008.
-The superstars for the Aztecs stepped in a needed game as Chase Tapley had 17 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds while Jamaal Franklin finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.
-Steve Fisher defeated Nevada in his first meeting with the Wolf Pack. He now has victories over 146 different schools.
-James Rahon earned the start for Thames, scoring 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting with 5 rebounds and no turnovers in 28 minutes.
San Diego State Bounces Back
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