San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Xavier Thames poured in a game-high 28 points and No. 10 San Diego State avoided an upset by upending Fresno State, 68-60, in Mountain West Conference play at Viejas Arena.
Winston Shepard chipped in with 17 points for the Aztecs (15-1, 4-0 MWC), who shot just 33.3 percent from the floor and missed 15 free throws but did just enough to post their 14th consecutive victory.
"All you have to do is look at his stat line, and it's that good," San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said about Thames. "He has been playing at such a level, that we expect him to do what he's doing."
Tyler Johnson paced Fresno State (8-10, 1-4) with 24 points, but the Bulldogs faltered late to fall to 1-7 against Division-I foes since Dec. 1.
"We knew coming into this game that this team has been playing the best in our league all season long," said Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry. "You have got to be able to handle their pressure and take care of the basketball. I thought we did that in the first half. I think we had five turnovers, 11 for the game.
"Second order of business is that they're probably one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. We knew coming in that we were going to have to match their physicality on the glass. I thought we challenged them with tough shots and we did a good job of keeping them off the (offensive) glass. I thought we did that for the better part of the game. At the end of the day, you've got to make plays and finish possessions and that's what (San Diego State) was able to do today."
Two free throws from Cezar Guerrero had Fresno State within 60-56 with 3:26 remaining, but misses by Johnson and Guerrero the next two times down, followed by an offensive goaltending violation on Alex Davis on the Bulldogs' next possession, ended their upset bid.
San Diego State scored nine of the game's first 11 points, and Johnson made three 3-pointers during a 16-3 Fresno State run that gave the Bulldogs a 25-17 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the opening half.
Thames capped his 15-point half with a 3-pointer to give SDSU a 31-29 lead in the final minute, and Marvelle Harris countered with a triple of his own to send the visitors into the locker room with a one-point edge.
There was three ties and five lead changes in the first 10 minutes of the second half. The fourth came on Allen Huddleston's banked-in 3-pointer with 10:47, which gave the Bulldogs a 46-44 lead, but the Aztecs answered with the next seven points to jump back in front.
Matt Shrigley and Thames each hit from long range, and Shepard's three-point play with 8:01 remaining gave SDSU its largest lead at the time, 56-48.