SAN DIEGO -- San Diego State defeated Fresno State 68-60 Wednesday night at Viejas Arena, but it was far from easy for the 10th-rated Aztecs.
San Diego State won for the 14th straight time and beat a California rival for the 38th consecutive time. However, the Aztecs (15-1, 4-0 Mountain West Conference) trailed at halftime and didn't put away the Bulldogs (8-10, 1-4) until the latter stages of the contest.
A key stretch came midway through the second half when San Diego State displayed the fire power -- and defense -- that fueled the team to the second-best start in school history.
The Aztecs trailed 46-44 before going on a 10-4 run over the next four minutes. The sequence featured a put-back basket by guard Winston Shepard and then a steal by forward JJ O'Brien. O'Brien rifled a pass to Shepard, who was credited with a bucket on a goaltending call for a 56-48 cushion.
San Diego State was clinging to a 62-56 edge, and it looked as if the margin would be cut to four points when Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris went up for a layup with about a minute remaining. However, the ball rolled off the rim, and Bulldogs forward Alex Davis was called for offensive interference when he tipped in the rebound.
Aztecs guard Xavier Thames scored a game-high 28 points, and Shepard added 17. The Bulldogs were paced by guard Tyler Johnson, who scored 24 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Harris finished with 11 points, but he hit just three of 12 shots from the field.
San Diego State went the final eight minutes without a field goal, scoring all 13 points from free throws.
Fresno State suffered its seventh straight loss to the Aztecs, including four in a row at Viejas Arena.
The Aztecs looked more rank than ranked in the first half.
They started fast with a 9-2 run and appeared poised to put away Fresno State early. But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the route.
Fresno State took advantage of some shoddy San Diego State shooting and when Johnson sank a jumper it capped a 23-8 Bulldogs run and was good for a 25-17 edge.
It also supplied a dose of confidence.
The Aztecs rallied, pulling to within 29-26 on a free throw and three-point play by Thames. Harris sank a 3-pointer for Fresno State in the half's closing seconds, giving the Bulldogs a 32-31 lead.
The Aztecs shot but 31 percent (10 of 32) in the opening 20 minutes, and they finished at 33.3 percent (18 of 54).
Fresno State was slightly better at 38.2 percent (21 of 55).
NOTES: Wednesday's crowd of 12,414 was the Aztecs' 31st consecutive regular-season sell out. ... San Diego State completes its two-game homestand against Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday. ... Fresno State senior G Tyler Johnson topped 1,000 points for his career. He finished the night with 1,003. ... The Indiana Pacers' Paul George, a former Fresno State star, will be honored Saturday when the Bulldogs host New Mexico. ... Fresno State last defeated a Top 10 team on March 10, 1984, when it beat then-No. 10 UNLV.