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San Diego State stifles New Mexico

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- A weak offensive showing and San Diego State's defense sent 15th-ranked New Mexico reeling to its first Mountain West Conference defeat.

"This is the way we should play in terms of effort, togetherness (and) the team," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "When you do that, you have a chance to win."

Forward JJ O'Brien scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, seven on those on the offensive end, and blocked two shots as the Aztecs rolled to a 55-34 rout of the Lobos before a soldout crowd of 12,414 at Viejas Arena on Saturday.

Guard Jamaal Franklin added 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals, but it was the San Diego State defense that limited New Mexico (17-3, 4-1) to its lowest scoring output in the shot-clock era.

"We didn't execute on offense," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "We really got dominated inside, which we thought would be our strength. They beat us in the paint (and) they beat us on the glass. They took away just about everything that was our strength."

O'Brien said the Aztecs needed the victory to prevent the Lobos from running away in the conference race.

"All week we were talking about how they're the best team in the league. That was motivation for us to get back in the race," said O'Brien, who helped San Diego State (16-4, 4-2) close to a half game of the Lobos.

"I just wanted to play hard. I had a couple of bad games in a row ... and I wanted to come back hard. On the rebounds, you can control your rebounds and control how hard you are on the glass. That pretty much opened the rest of my game up."

Franklin said of O'Brien, "He's helped us win our last two games. When you have someone like that contribute and step up and score the points and rebound the ball the way he did, that shows he's a real soldier."

O'Brien and Franklin helped harass the Lobos into a nightmarish shooting exhibition. New Mexico made only 11 of 44 shots from the field (25 percent) overall and 4 of 22 (18.2 percent) in the second half. The Lobos missed 12 of 15 shots from 3-point range.

"I think we did a good job of keeping our men in front of us," O'Brien said. "I think that's what they do a good job of is getting by their guys and driving and kicking for open threes. All the guards did a great job of keeping their men in front of them."

San Diego hit 23 of 57 shots from the field (40 percent) but missed 12 of 15 from beyond the arc.

"We hold them to 55 points and 40 percent shooting and 20 percent from three," Alford said. "So the effort was there. But we got out-toughed in a lot of areas."

The Aztecs had a 41-26 edge in rebounds.

Guard Kendall Williams led the Lobos with 14 points. He was the only New Mexico player to score in double figures. Williams made 5 of his 9 shots from the field, but his teammates converted only 6 of 35.

The Lobos' shooting and inability to rebound allowed San Diego State to take an early lead it would never relinquish. They missed 10 of their first 12 shots and managed just 7 field goals in 22 attempts (31.8 percent) as San Diego State took a 33-19 halftime lead.

The Aztecs, who ended the half on an 8-0 run, converted 13 of their 32 shots from the floor (40.6 percent). They also didn't allow New Mexico to hit a field goal in the final 4:55 of the half.

San Diego State outrebounded New Mexico by a 22-10 margin in the first half. Ten turnovers compared with seven for San Diego State didn't help the Lobos' cause, either.

NOTES: Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, who played college football at San Diego State, attended the game along with San Diego Padres catcher Nick Hundley and first-base coach Dave Roberts. ... The Lobos hold a 40-33 edge in the series. ... This was the first meeting between the teams since the Lobos posted a 68-59 win over the Aztecs in the conference tournament last year in Las Vegas. ... San Diego State and New Mexico have captured the past six Mountain West championships (regular season and conference tournaments).
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