Now he hopes it pushes the Aztecs forward as they look toward Mountain West play and a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
"We need games like that for later on," said Tapley, who scored 13 points as the Aztecs (11-1) beat Indiana State 62-55 despite poor free throw and 3-point shooting. "It gives us good experience."
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Jamaal Franklin had 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead San Diego State to the finals of the Diamond Head Classic tournament on Tuesday.
San Diego State pulled ahead for good during a seven-point run that included five straight points from Tapley. With less than five minutes to play, Tapley drove to the basket and was stopped by Jake Odum, who was called for a flagrant foul. Tapley made two free throws, and a quick 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, giving the Aztecs a 51-44 lead.
The Sycamores (6-4) got no closer than three points after that.
"Every trip down the floor seemed like a big possession," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "Both teams came up empty at times."
Franklin was one rebound shy of his career high, set last season against Colorado State. Xavier Thames had 12 points.
RJ Mahurin had 15 points, and Manny Arop added 13 for Indiana State.
"We knew it was going to be tough, and coming in we'd have to grind and grind and grind on them," Mahurin said.
Neither team established a clear advantage beyond a few key runs until San Diego State gained control late.
The Aztecs went on a 9-1 run midway through the first half to take a 20-13 lead with just under eight minutes left, capped by a three-pointer by Tapley. But the Sycamores pulled to within 28-25 at halftime.
Mahurin hit a 3-pointer from the right wing three minutes into the second half to give Indiana State a 32-31 lead.
The game had five ties and six lead changes.
"They made us guard for 35 seconds and make baskets as the shot clock was going out," Fisher said. "The shots that were falling like raindrops [Saturday] weren't going in."
After the game, Indiana State coach Greg Lansing was visibly upset as he looked at the box score while waiting for an interview with his team's radio broadcasters. He expressed disappointment with the Sycamores' seven assists compared with 17 turnovers.
San Diego State shot less than 24 percent (4 of 17) from 3-point range, and 64 percent (18 of 28) from the free throw line.
"We regained our composure, took a deep breath and allowed defense to create some offense and make free throws down the stretch after missing so many early on," Fisher said. "It wasn't the prettiest of games, but hard fought by both teams."