- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Fresno State coach Rodney Terry didn’t like what he saw just before halftime.

San Diego State’s slumping scorer, Xavier Thames, drained a 3-pointer to end the first half, a sign that maybe the senior guard had finally found his stroke again.

He sure did.

Thames shot 7 of 12 from the field to finish with 22 points and the 13th-ranked Aztecs unveiled a new motion offense in their 82-67 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

“Anytime you let a player like Thames get going and get comfortable, it’s going to be hard to deal with him for the remainder of the night,” Terry said. “That shot got him going and anytime you have a player of that caliber shooting well, it makes it tough.”

San Diego State (24-3, 14-2 Mountain West) shot 60 percent from the field, including 9 of 15 on 3-pointers, to cool off a Fresno State team that had won seven of eight. Thames was 3 of 4 behind the arc as the Aztecs snapped a two-game skid on the road.

It was the largest margin of defeat during conference play for Fresno State (15-15, 8-9). The Bulldogs were trying to beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2002.

“They made shots - a lot of shots,” Terry said. “They probably shot the ball as well tonight as they have all year long. We let those guys get comfortable early in the game.”

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ top scorer, Tyler Johnson, had a fairly quiet night despite finishing with a team-high 18 points. Johnson was in and out of the lineup because of foul trouble in the second half, and San Diego State took advantage each time to increase its 40-35 halftime lead.

Winston Shepard scored on a runner in transition to give the Aztecs their first double-digit advantage, 47-37, with 18:11 left.

The lead grew when Johnson went to the bench for a 2½-minute stretch and San Diego State went on a 9-2 run to make it 56-43.

After Johnson re-entered, he quickly picked up his fourth foul with 12:07 remaining and took a seat again. And though Johnson came back in a few minutes later, San Diego State extended its cushion to 72-53 on Thames‘ 3-pointer with 6:19 left.

Johnson, who entered ranked third in the Mountain West with an average of 18.6 points, scored six points in the final 4:21 to just about match his average. But the game was out of hand when he finally got going.

“Anytime you’re playing with fouls, it takes away from your aggressiveness,” Terry said. “He was kind of in that position. I thought he did a nice job staying in the game with four fouls. But I thought it affected him a little bit.”

Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian, who played and coached for the Bulldogs, was honored by Fresno State at halftime. His jersey was retired and lifted to the rafters to cheers from the sellout crowd of 14,801.

Story Continues →