Like any coach of a talented team, Steve Fisher will harbor some concern when his San Diego State squad loses focus or gets complacent.
After another passive second-half effort, the No. 17 Aztecs can ease any worries their coach might have with a more complete performance Thursday night when they try for an eighth consecutive victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara.
Coming off a couple of hard-fought victories over Southern California and UCLA, San Diego State (6-1) jumped out to a 34-16 first-half lead over Texas Southern at home Monday. However, the Aztecs appeared uninspired to open the final 20 minutes as the Tigers used a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to nine. The hosts regrouped and ultimately held Texas Southern to 38.7 percent shooting to remain undefeated since opening the season with a 62-49 loss to fourth-ranked Syracuse on the flight deck of the USS Midway.
Though Fisher's team ranks among the national leaders allowing 56.7 points per game and holding opponents to 36.4 percent shooting, it's the Aztecs' mental approach that sometimes needs to be more consistent, especially in the second half. San Diego State allows an average 22.7 points in the first half, but 34.0 in the second.
"We've just got to focus on coming out with more intensity in the second half," Fisher said. "Being smarter, making smarter plays and being able to handle that pressure when it comes to us maybe a little bit better, and just be prepared for that.
"We have given up a lot more points in the second half of most games, and we can't keep talking about that. We've got to perform better defensively together."
Though San Diego State has won its last three home meetings with UCSB (3-4) by an average of 18.4 points, it likely won't take anything for granted after needing overtime in last season's 76-75 road win over the Gauchos.
"We were very fortunate to win up there," Fisher said. "I think it will be a good game and we're going to make sure we have ourselves ready to go."
San Diego State's Xavier Thames had 20 points with 10 rebounds, Chase Tapley scored 16 and Jamaal Franklin added 12 off the bench at UCSB. The 6-foot-5 Franklin averages a Mountain West Conference-leading 19.9 points and is second with 10.7 rebounds per game. He had 18 with 15 boards on Monday.
The undersized Franklin could have a more difficult time controlling the glass if 6-foot-7 sophomore Alan Williams (16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg) plays like he did in the Gauchos' 83-80 overtime win at Santa Clara on Saturday. Williams, who did not score in 12 minutes off the bench against San Diego State last season, set career highs with 29 points and 17 rebounds Saturday.
"Big Al made a statement," UCSB coach Bob Williams said.
The Gauchos likely will need more than Williams to play well if they want to snap their seven-game skid against the Aztecs that dates to an 80-72 overtime road win Nov. 19, 2004. Freshman forward Taran Brown averages 13.6 points, but has totaled 20 on 6-of-20 shooting in the last two contests.
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