Ark.-Pine Bluff-San Diego St. Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- San Diego State won't open Mountain West play for another seven weeks, but it just got a good idea of how physical conference action will be.
It's unlikely Arkansas-Pine Bluff can provide the 25th-ranked Aztecs with a stiffer test.
San Diego State goes for a third straight victory Wednesday night against a Golden Lions team continuing a treacherous road stretch.
After falling 62-49 to Syracuse on Nov. 11 on the flight deck of the San Diego-based USS Midway, then routing NAIA San Diego Christian 91-57 two days later in its home opener, San Diego State (2-1) hit the road for the first time on Saturday and won 60-44 over a physical Missouri State team.
Led by senior guard Jamaal Franklin, who recorded his second consecutive double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds, the Aztecs posted the largest margin of victory by an opponent at the 4-year-old JQH Arena. San Diego State, though, led by just four with 7:13 left.
"I told our team, 'This is going to be like a road game in the league, this is going to be a Mountain West Conference road game, and you know what those are like,'" said coach Steve Fisher, whose team begins its bid for a third straight league title Jan. 9 at Fresno State. "And it was."
Before hitting the road against Southern California on Sunday and No. 11 UCLA on Dec. 1, the Aztecs go for their 34th win in their last 35 at home against non-conference opponents.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-2) has dropped 36 straight non-conference road games by an average of 21.4 points.
The Golden Lions will get plenty of opportunities to end their lengthy skid as they have eight more on the road before their first home game Jan. 2 against Mississippi Valley State.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which lost 93-61 on Dec. 29, 2008, at San Diego State in the teams' only previous matchup, hasn't played since a 62-52 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 12 at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. Senior guard Lazabian Jackson led the way with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Jackson also grabbed a career-high 10 boards, but the undersized Golden Lions were outrebounded by 14. Arkansas-Pine Bluff has 29 fewer boards than its opponents.
That could be a big problem against an Aztecs team that ranks among the nation's best with 47.0 rebounds per game. San Diego State, though, would gladly trade its lofty offensive rebounding totals (19.3 per game) for an improved shooting percentage, which is at 36.8.
Franklin (19 for 41) is the only Aztec regular shooting above 42.1 percent, but he's missed 14 of 16 from long range. San Diego State is 9 for 59 (15.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Fellow senior Chase Tapley has especially struggled. The team's second-leading scorer (15.8 points per game) behind Franklin a year ago, Tapley has averaged 10.7 points while shooting 32.4 percent thus far.
Aztecs freshman forward Winston Shepard will complete his three-game suspension Wednesday after violating an unspecified NCAA rule.
Updated November 20, 2012