O'Brien, Spencer lead Aztecs to 72-63 win vs Rams

SAN DIEGO -- There's nothing quite like San Diego State's home-court advantage, at least in the Mountain West Conference.

With Winston Shepard and JJ O'Brien leading the way, the Aztecs won at home for the second time in four nights, beating Colorado State 72-63 on Saturday to take a one-game lead in the Mountain West and clinch their 10th straight 20-win season under coach Steve Fisher.

O'Brien scored 11 of his 18 points during an 18-6 run late in the first half, Winston Shepard had 19 points and 11 rebounds despite dislocating his left pinkie in the first half, and Skylar Spencer led a strong defensive effort with six blocked shots, tying his career-high. Spencer also had nine points and six rebounds.

The Aztecs (20-6, 10-3 Mountain West) opened a one-game lead in the conference and avenged a 79-73 loss at CSU three weeks ago.

"This was a wonderful team victory, and I'm going to underline team," Fisher said. "To a man we played smart, played with great energy and played together. When we do that we've got a chance to play with anybody."

SDSU has won 29 straight at Viejas Arena.

"We're good anywhere. We're really good at home," Fisher said.

Victories against Wyoming on Wednesday night and then against CSU were critical for SDSU's conference championship aspirations, especially since they were coming off an ugly 15-point loss at Boise State on Sunday.

"We could have folded," Shepard said. "The loss at Boise, that was tough. Coming back home and having to play two of the top three or four teams, we could be looking at 8-5 instead of 10-3. That speaks for the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff to not let us get into a slide or a slump."

Three weeks ago, the Rams took a 17-point, first-half lead against SDSU and made 12 of 21 3-pointers. On Saturday night, they made only two of 19 from behind the arc.

"We were on high alert," O'Brien said. "Tonight we really put an emphasis on getting our hands up and pressuring those guys instead of letting them shoot it."

Said Fisher: "They had some open looks that they missed on but for the most part we were out contesting, making it difficult for them to shoot their 3s, as 2 for 19 would indicate."

J.J. Avila scored 24 for CSU (21-5, 8-5).

Avila made two free throws to give Colorado State a 20-19 lead with 6:41 left in the first half before O'Brien took over to give SDSU the lead for good.

O'Brien scored the Aztecs' next nine points to give them a 28-24 lead. He had a three-point play, a bank shot, two free throws and a layup.

His layup was the start of an 11-0 run. Spencer then blocked a shot by John Gillon to set up a 3-pointer from the corner by Shepard. Freshman Malik Pope hit a 3-pointer, O'Brien a jumper in the key and Spencer made one of two free throws for a 37-24 lead.

SDSU led 37-26 at halftime and took its biggest advantage, 46-29, with 15:43 left.

"You can't expect to beat a team that has won their 29th game in a row on this court by shooting 19 3-point shots," Rams coach Larry Eustachy said. "But I thought we competed."

CSU cut the gap to single digits in the final minutes.



Colorado St: The Rams have lost six of eight and 15 of 18 to SDSU.

San Diego St.: SDSU's run of 20-win seasons under Fisher began in 2005-06. Overall, The Aztecs have 11 20-win seasons in Fisher's 16 seasons, including two 30-win seasons. SDSU is trying to get into the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year.


Colorado State is at Fresno State on Wednesday night.

San Diego State is at New Mexico on Tuesday night.