S. Diego St. (20-5) at Air Force (12-11)

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By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Friday, Feb 17, 2012 Tipoff: 4:00 pm EST Sat Feb 18, 2012

Losing streaks have been incredibly rare for San Diego State in recent seasons, and their current one comes at a particularly bad time.

The 13th-ranked Aztecs will try to avoid losing three in a row for the first time in four years when they visit Air Force on Saturday.

San Diego State dropped into a tie for second place in the Mountain West Conference after a 77-67 home loss to New Mexico on Wednesday. The Aztecs (20-5, 6-3) were coming off last Saturday’s 65-63 defeat to UNLV (7-2), the current conference leader.

It’s the first time San Diego State has lost back-to-back games since consecutive road defeats in January 2010.

“I think that speaks to our program and how much it’s grown,” said James Rahon, who had 11 points Wednesday. “We are not used to losing. We have to make sure we get this one in Colorado Springs this weekend. It was a tough loss tonight, but we’ll try and get this next one.”

San Diego State’s hopes of winning the Mountain West’s regular-season title would be further dashed if it loses three in a row for the first time since Feb. 9-16, 2008. The Aztecs have lost two straight games just four times since then.

Ending this losing streak would be made tougher if leading scorer and rebounder Jamaal Franklin isn’t available after he suffered a sprained ankle Wednesday, leaving him on crutches.

Coach Steve Fisher said Franklin, who averages 16.0 points to rank second in the conference and 7.4 rebounds to rank third, was “iffy” for Saturday and didn’t expect him to practice the rest of the week.

“I’m concerned,” Fisher said. “I watched that on tape, put it back a couple times. He rolled it pretty good. … If you ask Jamaal, he would say, ‘I’m playing.’ Sometimes kids heal and heal miraculously and are able to go.”

If Franklin can’t go, the pressure will increase on Chase Tapley to bounce back after he was held to seven points Wednesday while shooting 3 of 11. He’s averaging 15.8 points.

Though Air Force (12-11, 2-7) is tied for last place in the Mountain West, Fisher expressed some concern as the Falcons are coming off a 58-53 win at Wyoming on Wednesday to snap a seven-game losing streak.

“I know when you win, especially on the road like they did, you’re excited and ready to play,” he said. “They made (eight) 3s. .. If they make 3s they are hard on anybody.”

Air Force is 6-2 when hitting at least eight 3-pointers.

The win over Wyoming came in its second game under interim coach Dave Pilipovich, who took over after Jeff Reynolds was fired Feb. 8.

After losing 72-61 to Boise State last Saturday in Pilipovich’s coaching debut, the Falcons overcame an eight-point halftime deficit against the Cowboys, holding them to 26.1-percent shooting and 17 points after the break.

“Our kids, I think just finally got to the point, enough’s enough, we just gotta go play,” Pilipovich said. “These are outstanding young men and when things get tough, they’re going to go back to their training.”

Leading scorer Michael Lyons finished with 24 points for a second straight game. He’s 10 of 14 from 3-point range in that span.

Lyons was held to four points on 1-of-11 shooting in a 57-44 loss at San Diego State on Jan. 21, leaving the Falcons with their eighth straight loss in the series.

Air Force is 1-74 all-time against ranked teams, with the lone win coming against UTEP on Feb. 15, 1992. However, the only Top 25 team to visit Clune Arena this season was taken to overtime as then-No. 12 UNLV pulled out a 65-63 win Jan. 28.

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