SAN DIEGO -- Xavier Thames showed once again why he's so valuable to San Diego State.
"Sometimes your worth to a team doesn't show up in the boxscore. It does with Xavier," coach Steve Fisher said. "All you have to do is look at the stat line, and he's that good. He has been playing at such a level that we expect him to be doing what he's doing."
On a night when the Aztecs (15-1, 4-0 Mountain West) often looked ragged, Thames was the only one who was consistent. He made eight of 13 field goal attempts (the team hit only 18 of 54 for 33.3 percent) and nine of 11 free throws.
Shepard scored 17 points and Josh Davis had 13 rebounds.
SDSU won it at the line. Fresno State was whistled for 25 fouls and the Aztecs made 26 of 41 free throws. SDSU was called for only 14 fouls and Fresno State was 11 of 15 from the line.
The Aztecs' only scoring in the final 8 minutes was from the free throw line, where they made 13 of 17. Their last field goal came when Shepard was fouled on a goaltending call with 8:01 left.
"We're not really worried about that. We're just worried about getting stops on the defensive end," Thames said. "The offensive flow will come to us. Our main thing is just getting stops on the defensive end, coming together as a team and getting stops."
San Diego State also set a school record for fewest turnovers with four.
Fisher said the Aztecs got better at driving as the game went on and the 41 free throws they took "were indicative of our attack mode and crashing the boards, and we do a pretty good job of both."
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry chuckled at the disparity in the number of free throws. "Give them credit, they made more than they missed and it gave them a chance to win a close ballgame," he said.
Thames and Shepard were a combined 18 of 25 from the line, more than Fresno State's team totals.
"It's hard to win those kind of games," Terry said.
"They called it close but I don't think that had any effect on the outcome," said Tyler Johnson, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds for Fresno State (8-10, 1-4), which lost for the fourth time in five games. "We didn't make plays down the stretch in order to take the lead."
The Aztecs' 12-2 run started after Allen Huddleston hit a 3-pointer with 10:50 to go to give Fresno State a 46-44 lead. Matt Shrigley made the front end of a 1-and-1 and then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give SDSU a 48-46 advantage. Thames added a 3 for a five-point lead before Johnson made a 17-foot jumper for the Bulldogs.
Shepard then took over with a spin move and a bank shot followed by a three-point play, after he was fouled on a goaltending call, for a 56-48 lead, SDSU's biggest.
Fresno State led for most of the final 8 1/2 minutes of the first half thanks to a 27-13 run. Johnson hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the spurt and Huddleston also made a shot from behind the arc.
SDSU bounced back behind Thames, who scored eight of his team's final 10 points in the half. Thames hit the first of two free throws, then had a three-point play and a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left that gave SDSU a 31-29 lead.
Marvelle Harris made a 3 with 14 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 32-31 halftime edge.
The Aztecs won their 38th consecutive game against a team from California. On Monday, SDSU reached its highest AP ranking since it was No. 6 on March 14, 2011.