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March 7, 2013

Aztecs avenge loss to Air Force in home finale



SAN DIEGO - With the exception of some nice alley-oop slam dunks early on, there wasn't much pretty about San Diego State's victory against Air Force.

Then again, the win was all that mattered.

Jamaal Franklin had 12 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Aztecs to a 58-51 victory on Wednesday night and avenge a loss to the Falcons from earlier in the season.

J.J. O'Brien also had 12 points, while Xavier Thames had 11 and Chase Tapley 10, for the Aztecs (21-8, 9-6 Mountain West), who are trying to hold onto the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament next week in Las Vegas. They finish the regular season at Boise State on Saturday.

Another loss to the Falcons would have pushed the Aztecs closer to the NCAA tournament bubble.

"This was a tough, physical, sweet victory for us," coach Steve Fisher said. "You can look at the numbers and say, 'Man, it was an ugly game.' But it was a tough, hard-fought, highly competitive, aggressive, great victory for San Diego State. It was a game we had to win, against a team that beat us at their place."

San Diego State shot only 33.9 percent (20 of 59) while the Falcons were at 33.3 percent (16 of 48). Air Force had 14 turnovers, the Aztecs eight.

Tapley is one of six players who were honored on Senior Night. Although Franklin is a junior, he might have been playing his final home game if he opts to declare for the NBA draft.

Michael Lyons scored 10 points for Air Force (16-12, 7-8) before fouling out. The Falcons beat the Aztecs 70-67 in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Feb. 2.

Franklin and Tapley put on a show in the opening minutes to give SDSU an early lead. Franklin threw an alley-oop pass to Tapley for a slam dunk. Tapley returned the favor when he threw an alley-oop pass to Franklin on the baseline for a reverse dunk and a 12-7 lead.

SDSU led 23-18 after a poor-shooting half by both teams. Air Force then went on a 5-0 run, including a three-point play by DeLovell Earls, to tie it at 23. The Falcons tied it again at 29 on a 3-pointer by Marek Olesinski but could never take the lead.

Air Force stayed within two points before Tapley made two free throws and then hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to give SDSU a 41-34 lead with 8:40 to play. The Aztecs extended the lead to 45-36 on a three-point play by Deshawn Stephens with 7:37 left. Stephens missed the free throw, but an Air Force player was whistled for goaltending.


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