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  • Game info: 10:00 pm EST Sat Dec 18, 2010
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San Diego State survived without starters Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley in its last game to preserve the best start in school history. It’s not clear when they will be back.

The 11th-ranked Aztecs could be short-handed again Saturday night when they host UC Santa Barbara, which won’t be intimidated after upsetting a ranked team earlier this week.

San Diego State (11-0) moved two games shy of a 13-game run in 1955-56 for the longest in school history after Monday’s 51-45 victory over Cal Poly.

The win came despite the absences of Leonard, the leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, and Tapley. Coach Steve Fisher said Leonard and Tapley felt ill last Saturday before a 77-49 win over San Diego and took IVs before Monday’s game.

Leonard and Tapley have missed practice this week.

“It was really different without Kawhi and Chase on the court, but we have to play through stuff like that,” forward Malcolm Thomas said. “We have to defend every game, no matter who’s on the court. That was our main focus today, just defend.”

Thomas picked up the slack with 18 points and 15 rebounds for San Diego State, which shot a season-low 34.8 percent and missed all 18 3-pointers. The Aztecs limited the Mustangs to 29.2 percent from the field - the lowest against San Diego State this season.

“I’m happy we won, but it was a hard game to go through personally,” said guard D.J. Gay, who missed 10 of 11 shots. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we won that game with our defense.”

The Aztecs have won five straight over UC Santa Barbara (5-3), with Thomas scoring 15 and Leonard and Gay each adding 13 in last season’s 69-61 road win.

San Diego State shot 50.9 percent in that game but could find it tougher this time with UC Santa Barbara tied for the Big West Conference lead by limiting opponents to 40.2 percent shooting. The Gauchos used that brand of defense to hold No. 22 UNLV to 29.0 percent shooting in a 68-62 victory Wednesday.

“We’ve won at UNLV and at UCLA before,” coach Bob Williams said. “Those are tough venues. The big wins are in league championships and in the postseason. This was a big test for us tonight.”

The Gauchos will try to knock off another Mountain West Conference powerhouse in their first set of consecutive games against ranked opponents since they played Louisville and Oklahoma State in the 1993 Rainbow Classic.

UC Santa Barbara boasts the only Division I teammates to average at least 20 points in James Nunnally (22.0) and Orlando Johnson (20.3). Nunnally scored 23 on Wednesday and Johnson had 12 and a career-high 15 rebounds.

“This is a huge win,” Johnson said. “I wanted to get in their heads. It was going to be a battle. We traveled too far to lose.”

Neither played well last season against the Aztecs. Nunnally missed 6 of 7 shots for four points while Johnson scored 10 on 2-of-6 shooting.

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Saturday, Dec 18