SPOKANE, Wash. -- San Diego State is the bottom team in the AP Top 25, and forward Billy White didn't want its stay in the poll to be short.
White scored a career-high 30 points as San Diego State beat Gonzaga (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) 79-76 on Tuesday night, dealing the Zags their fifth home loss at the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
Kawhi Leonard added 18 points and 12 rebounds for San Diego State (2-0), which is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history.
"We knew we had to come away with a win and let everybody in the world know that we can play with the best of them," White said.
The Aztecs dominated the rebounding 39-29 and got 18 offensive rebounds that led to 24 second-chance points.
"That was the key," White said. "We knew if we could keep them off the boards that we could win."
White scored 18 points in the second half, many with the game on the line.
"I felt like I had to put my team on my back," White said.
Steven Gray scored a career-high 35 points for Gonzaga (2-1), which had not lost at home since Dec. 5, 2009, to Wake Forest. Gray scored 14 of the Bulldogs' final 15 points but turned the ball over in the closing seconds.
White and Leonard, both forwards, combined to score 48 of San Diego State's 79 points, going 14-of-18 from the field.
"We could not have done it without him," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "This had to be Billy's best game."
Fisher won his 200th game, against 149 losses, in his 12 seasons with the Aztecs. The victory snapped San Diego State's 33-game road losing streak to Top 25 teams, and this is the highest-ranked team the Aztecs have ever beaten on the road.
The Aztecs harassed Gonzaga into bad shots much of the game and the Bulldogs made just five of 18 3-pointers.
"The putback numbers were huge," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the offensive rebounding. "They crushed us.
"They're an impressive team," Few said. "We're used to winning these games."
Trailing by five at halftime, Gonzaga scored the first seven points of the second half and Elias Harris converted a three-point play for a 44-42 lead.
White's 3-pointer put the Aztecs ahead 48-45 lead. The teams traded baskets, and White made five consecutive baskets to give the Aztecs a 66-59 lead.
After Gray's two free throws cut San Diego State's lead to 69-67, White scored consecutive baskets and Leonard added a third as the Aztecs built a 75-67 lead with 3:53 left.
Gray outscored the Aztecs 6-2 to cut their lead to 77-73 with 1:43 left. Kelly Olynyk's free throw a few seconds later pulled Gonzaga within 77-74.
The Aztecs missed several shots but grabbed the rebounds and kept the ball until Michael Thomas was called for a charge with 38 seconds left.
Gray's layup pulled Gonzaga within 77-76 with 23 seconds left.
Leonard was fouled on the inbounds play and made both free throws for a 79-76 Aztecs lead with 22 seconds left.
Gray brought the ball up the court, but it was batted away and recovered by a San Diego State player. Gray's long 3-pointer at the buzzer missed.
"Steven was superhuman tonight," Few said.
But he didn't get much help. Robert Sacre added 13 points and 11 rebounds but was quiet down the stretch. Harris had just five points.
Fisher said the nationally televised game introduced many people to his team, which is favored to win the Mountain West Conference.
"This one I know got national attention," Fisher said. "Many people were wondering what we were like."
In the first half, Leonard put back a rebound for a 30-20 lead, as Gonzaga made just six of its first 18 shots. Gray's 3-pointer and layup sparked a 9-4 run that brought Gonzaga within 34-29 with 4:10 left. San Diego State led 42-37 at halftime.
This is only the second time the schools have played. The first was a Gonzaga victory in 1959.
Gonzaga is 77-5 in the McCarthey Athletic Center in 2004.
- Frank Harvey
- Mike Scyphers