SAN DIEGO (AP)—San Diego State’s students did just fine celebrating a win against a ranked team, even though most of them probably weren’t around for the last one.
Hundreds of students came pouring out of the stands and mobbed the Aztecs after they beat No. 15 Air Force 62-41 on Tuesday night, their first victory over a Top 25 team since December 2001.
“This is the biggest win we’ve had since I’ve been here,” senior guard Brandon Heath said. “We’re enjoying every bit of it. I think the fans are enjoying it more than we are. That’s definitely a plus.”
Mohamed Abukar had 16 points and eight rebounds for the defending Mountain West Conference champion Aztecs (16-7, 5-4), who won their third straight.
SDSU had lost 10 consecutive games to ranked teams since beating then-No. 21 Fresno State 93-78 on Dec. 8, 2001. Since moving to Division I in 1970-71, the Aztecs are 11-73 against ranked opponents.
SDSU added to its dismal record against Top 25 teams earlier this season, losing 69-48 to Arizona at home on Dec. 9, and 56-51 at Air Force on Jan. 20— one of its four losses in its first six conference games.
But this time, nothing went right for the Falcons (20-4, 7-3).
“This one was a clunker,” coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “I can’t explain shooting airballs, missing opportunities around the basket and turnovers.”
The Falcons got off to a bad start and never recovered, losing for the third time—all on the road—in six games. They never led and tied the game only once, at 10-all. SDSU scored the first eight points while Air Force missed its first six shots.
“It was just kind of a slow death,” Bzdelik said. “When you’re not making shots, your energy starts to diffuse. It slowly starts to get away from you.”
Andrew Henke had 11 points to lead Air Force, which shot just 36.2 percent (17-of-47), including 3-of-19 from 3-point range. The Falcons missed their first 13 3-point shots before Henke had 3s on consecutive possessions just past the midway point of the second half.
SDSU broke it open with a 17-6 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half to take a 41-22 lead. Abukar scored eight points during the run, Heath made a 3-pointer and Lorrenzo Wade finished it with a slam dunk.
The Aztecs credited coach Steve Fisher and his staff with a great game plan.
“We were well-prepared,” Heath said. “We knew what they were going to do before they did it.”
Heath finished with 14 points and Jerome Habel had 11.
The 41 points were a season low for the Falcons, who came in averaging 72.3.
“They came out and they wanted the game,” Air Force forward Jacob Burtschi said. “We have to look into ourselves and see if we’re men or little boys.”
It was Air Force’s first visit to San Diego since losing to Illinois in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March.