San Diego State wins at Kansas with frontcourt dominance

Xavier Thames (2) had 16 points to help lead San Diego State to a huge road win at Kansas. (USATSI)
Xavier Thames (2) had 16 points to help lead San Diego State to a huge road win at Kansas. (USATSI)

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for San Diego State in the 2013-14 season. The Aztecs were supposed to struggle, they were supposed to be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. Fourth in the Mountain west.

Well, that’s not happening.

San Diego State went into Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday evening and handed Kansas its first non-conference home loss in 69 games, beating the Jayhawks, 61-57. That’s now 11 wins in a row for the Aztecs since losing at home to Arizona in the second game of the season.

It was a statement win for Steve Fisher’s team.

San Diego State completely dominated on the defensive end of the floor and on the backboards. The Aztecs held Kansas to 30 percent shooting from the field on the game – which was actually a huge step up from the first half, when the Jayhawks only had six field goals on 21 percent shooting. Kansas couldn’t really get much going inside, as San Diego State’s length and size made life difficult for Perry Ellis (four points). The Aztecs consistently doubled the Jayhawks’ big men when they got the ball in the post, and they didn’t allow any good looks.

That length and size also helped San Diego State control the glass – and the 51-39 margin doesn’t do the Aztecs justice. They grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, coming up with key second-chance points late in the game. Skylar Spencer and Josh Davis combined for 23 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks. The Aztecs’ frontcourt is just a nightmare to deal with, and their size is going to make them competitive against anyone in the country. The loss to Arizona back in November wasn’t surprising, and the Wildcats are one of the few teams with as much size and length across the board as the Aztecs.

Despite more experienced teams at New Mexico and Boise State, San Diego State entered Mountain West play as the league favorites. Considering where the Aztecs were in the preseason, that’s a terrific job by Fisher. He’s reloaded faster than anyone assumed after the losses of Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. Xavier Thames has been one of the most underrated point guards in the country, and Winston Shepard has emerged as a key offensive threat. Spencer had his breakout party against Kansas, and Josh Davis is a rebounding machine.

There are obviously some issues on the offensive end, but if the Aztecs continue to crash the offensive glass like they did on Sunday, they will find ways to get points. Moreover, given the defense they have been playing, they might not need too many points. They have allowed more than 69 points only one time this season – and that was in an 86-80 win over Creighton.

Winning the Wooden Legacy after Thanksgiving put San Diego State back on the radar, but Sunday was the Aztecs’ coming-out party. They’re going to be heard from the rest of the season. 

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