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No. 16 San Diego State opens MWC play at Fresno State

8:55 AM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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Fresno, CA (Sports Network) - Mountain West Conference play gets underway tonight in the Golden State, as the Fresno State Bulldogs entertain the 16th- ranked San Diego State Aztecs at the Save Mart Center.

Taking on teams from inside the state boundaries has been a specialty of the Aztecs lately, with the team posting 31 straight victories over opponents from California which is easily the longest streak among Division I programs. Last week, the team continued that domination as it took out Cal State Bakersfield at home in a 72-57 final.

A favorite to capture the MWC title again this year, the Aztecs are the two- time defending conference champions as they begin league play here in 2012-13.

As for the Bulldogs, they just recently snapped a four-game slide with an 89-64 romp over Sonoma State on Dec. 30. With that latest victory FSU is one game under .500 as it begins play in a new league after coming over from the Western Athletic Conference. From a defensive standpoint, FSU has held all but one of 13 opponents this season to less than 70 points.

The relationship between these two teams dates back to 1940, with the Aztecs holding a 54-48 advantage according to their records. San Diego State has won four straight between the former WAC combatants, claiming a 62-58 victory in November of 2009.

Matching their second-best start to a season during their Division I history, the Aztecs took care of business versus Cal State Bakersfield a week ago as Jamaal Franklin put together a double-double consisting of 18 points and 12 rebounds, adding four assists and two blocked shots in order to offset his five turnovers. Chase Tapley dropped in another 14 points as the team held the Roadrunners to just 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and outscored the visitors by a 27-6 margin at the free-throw line. Franklin, who missed one game earlier in the campaign, has been a fixture at the charity stripe for SDSU already with 79-of-101 shooting, which is rather impressive given that all of the team's opponents combined are just 113-of-185 at the stripe over 14 games. Franklin leads the team in both scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.9 rpg) and is also first with 46 assists, so you can forgive him for shooting only 24.5 percent behind the 3-point line to some degree.

Fresno State scored the first points of the game against Sonoma State and never looked back, leading by as many as 25 points in the waning moments as the hosts shot 54.5 percent from the floor and an even more impressive 55.0 percent (11-of-20) beyond the arc. However, the Bulldogs still had their issues elsewhere as they converted just 18-of-31 at the charity stripe and turned the ball over 16 times. Tyler Johnson scored a game-high 25 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists, followed by Marvelle Harris with 20 points off the bench and Kevin Olekaibe with 15 and four of the unit's 13 steals as they forced 21 turnovers themselves. Olekaibe, one of the nation's top scoring guards last season with 17.8 ppg as he let fly from all over the floor, has limited his shot selections greatly in 2012-13 and has but five double-digit scoring games thus far. He has shown some signs of life recently with three straight double-digit efforts, but still he is posting only 8.5 ppg. Taking the lead in the scoring department this time around is Tyler Johnson with 10.8 ppg.

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