With a favorable slate of non-conference games left, San Diego State has a good chance to hold on to its first top 10 ranking for the rest of this month.
The No. 7 Aztecs will try to add to their best start in school history Tuesday night by topping San Francisco at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
With two more wins this past week, San Diego State (12-0) moved up four spots in the latest AP poll, released Monday.
Leading scorer Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley returned from illness in Saturday night’s 90-64 home victory over UC-Santa Barbara, the Aztecs’ best scoring performance this season.
Not known for getting off to fast starts, San Diego State built a 57-29 lead by halftime and made eight of its season-high 12 3-pointers over that opening 20 minutes. The Aztecs were 0 for 18 from beyond the arc in a 51-45 victory over Cal Poly on Dec. 13.
“It feels good to come out in the first half and just play our hardest,” said forward Billy White, a Las Vegas native. “Usually the first half is always kind of lazy for us, we always start off kind of slow and then we pick it up in the second half. In this game, coach got on us, told us we need to play good the whole 40 minutes of the game. That’s what we tried to do.”
Malcolm Thomas had a team-best 18 points and 10 rebounds, and was one of six players to score in double figures.
Continuing that balanced scoring might help the Aztecs stay unbeaten heading into Mountain West play. After facing San Francisco (4-6), they’ll take on IUPUI (5-7) for the second time this season Wednesday night to wrap up their stay in Vegas.
San Diego State, which beat IUPUI 61-46 on Nov. 21, will play its non-conference finale Dec. 31 at home against Division III Occidental.
San Francisco enters 0-5 away from home this season and has dropped its past two such matchups by a combined 54 points, including a 61-35 loss to then-No. 24 Louisville on Dec. 8.
In an 80-52 loss at Washington on Saturday night, the Dons’ top two scorers - sophomore guard Michael Williams (16.2) and sophomore forward Perris Blackwell (11.0) - were the only players in double figures.
Since beating Seattle in its season opener, San Francisco has claimed wins in overtime over Colorado and Montana. The Dons beat NAIA opponent Holy Names to open this month but have dropped three of four since.
They’ve also won two of the three previous meetings with San Diego State, the last Dec. 22, 1979.