The Pit was nothing but a pit stop on the road to another Mountain West title.
That was the sense with San Diego State disposing of New Mexico, 63-46, on Tuesday night.
The Aztecs (21-6, 11-3) went ahead of the Lobos (14-12, 6-8) early and coasted in for their first win at Albuquerque since 2012.
SDSU’s offense is gaining ground on its defense and that’s always a good thing. The gang that couldn’t shot straight shot 47 percent from the field, including Aqeel Quinn sinking all but one of his five 3-pointers.
“What we are doing is generating more offense and our defense has remained very, very sound and solid,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. “We still have to rebound better. From a guard the ball until the shot goes up, we were very, very solid. We made it hard for them to get good looks.”
The vision for SDSU couldn’t be much better. Its won three straight games and six of seven. The Aztecs lead the MW by a game, but really two, thanks to their season sweep of second-place Wyoming.
With four games remaining, SDSU is playing some of its best basketball of the season.
“Overall, it was a really, really good performance in a place that is difficult to win,” Fisher said.
With Quinn going for 20 points and JJ O’Brien have another solid game (eight points, four assists and four rebounds) it would be easy to overlook the bench contribution.
Although not for Fisher, as he shuffled players in and out like a pickup game. In particular, Malik Pope was productive, reaching double figures in scoring (16) for third time this season.
“We have a team full of guys that when you bring them in you expect them to play well,” Fisher said. “That is what we have been able to do. We have been able to wear people down that don’t play nine or 10 guys and (our bench) did that.
“I thought Trey Kell made several plays where he was able to get a hand in and dig a ball out and kick the ball ahead for a basket. Plays that win for you. We are seeing growth in our young players and we are seeing the experience of guys like AQ, JJ, Skyler (Spencer) and Winston (Shepard) maintain themselves and when teams make runs on us we do not do something foolish.”
It’s not crazy to speculate the Aztecs winning their final four MW games: at San Jose State, Boise State, at UNLV and Nevada.
That would send SDSU to the MW Tournament as the regular-season champion, the No. 1 seed and with an NCAA Tournament bid in its hip pocket.
“They’re a really good team,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said after the Lobos shot 30 percent.
It’s one that’s hitting its stride at the season’s most critical juncture.
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