Aztecs and Spartans mix it up in Mountain West melee

Jan 22, 2014 - 3:59 PM San Jose, CA ( - Seeking to start conference play a perfect 6-0 for the first time in 47 years, the seventh-ranked San Diego State Aztecs have hit the road to challenge the San Jose State Spartans in Mountain West Conference action.

San Diego State, which has already defeated three Top-25 programs here in 2013-14 and a total of six schools that appeared in last year's NCAA Tournament, has just a single setback through 17 opportunities with a 69-60 loss to then sixth-ranked Arizona. Since bowing to the Wildcats, a team which is now a near-unanimous No. 1 squad, San Diego State has rattled off 15 straight wins. While there have been some close calls along the way, SDSU was able to take down visiting UNLV last weekend in a 63-52 final.

Enjoying their second-longest winning streak in program history and the fourth-longest in the nation coming into the week, the Aztecs also have to be pleased with themselves knowing that they've also won 38 straight meetings against opponents from the Golden State.

While SDSU is the only team in the MWC yet to suffer a league loss, the Spartans are at the other end of the spectrum. San Jose State is still the lone winless team in MWC play, coming up empty in six tries after losing to Wyoming last weekend, 67-56, in Laramie. On a more positive note, of the six total victories by the Spartans at this stage, four have come at home.

Even though the Aztecs have the much bigger profile again this season, the fact remains that SJSU actually leads the all-time series by a count of 34-30. However, it should be noted that the teams have not crossed paths since 1999 when SDSU posted a 75-72 win.

Holding the UNLV Runnin' Rebels to a mere 20 points in the first half, the fewest tallied in a 20-minute frame by the program since 2009, the Aztecs were well on their way to picking up yet another victory over the weekend. The hosts did have some problems of their own as they shot only 20-of-59 from the floor and 2-of-11 behind the 3-point line, but made up for it with 21-of-27 at the free-throw line. Xavier Thames tallied a game-high 18 points, but shot only 3-of-14 from the field, followed by Josh Davis with a solid double-double consisting of 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Thames leads the Aztecs in scoring with his 17.0 ppg, connecting on 81.6 percent of his opportunities at the charity stripe, while Winston Shepard checks in with 13.1 ppg and combines with the former to hand out 79 assists in 17 games. Davis is always on the cusp of posting a double-double, now averaging 9.0 ppg and a team-best 11.5 rpg as he helps the group to beat opponents on the glass by 6.6 rpg. Defensively, there are few teams in the country as strong as SDSU as it limits foes to a mere 55.7 ppg.

With only eight field goals in the first half against Wyoming in Laramie over the weekend, the Spartans dug themselves a hole from which they could not climb out. The visitors ended up shooting only 37.0 percent from the field overall, 9-of-29 on the perimeter, as D.J. Brown tallied a team-best 18 points thanks to his four triples. Devante Wilson tacked on 13 points and Chris Cunningham 10 in the losing cause.

Despite putting up just two points as he missed all seven of his field goal chances and converted a couple of attempts at the free-throw line, Rashad Muhammad is still the top overall scorer for the Spartans with his 16.2 ppg. Off the bench in all but one of the team's 18 contests, Muhammad is shooting better from 3-point range (.450) than he is the floor overall (.405), where the Spartans are only 40.0 percent accurate at the moment. Jaleel Williams accounts for another 11.9 ppg and is second on the glass with 6.2 rpg.

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