It certainly wasn't pretty, but San Diego State is coming home from a long road trip to Springfield, Mo., with a 60-44 win over Missouri State thanks to sound defense, a dominating performance on the boards and a double-double by Jamaal Franklin (22 points, 12 rebounds).
But after the game, much of the talk centered around what SDSU didn't do, and that was shoot the ball well. The Aztecs' shooting woes continued on Saturday, as they shot 4-22 from three (18.2 percent) and just 19-59 (32.2 percent) overall. SDSU's 16-point win at the JQH Arena was the largest margin of victory ever for a visiting team in venue history, but the game seemed much closer than the final score indicated.
"It was one of those games where neither team offensively could get a lot going," associate head coach Brian Dutcher said. "So if you're a fan of defense, you would've loved this game. But as a coach to sit there, it's always hard to not be able to put the ball into the basket because we're getting the shots we want, we're getting good looks and couldn't make a lot of them."
"It is part of the game," point guard Xavier Thames said about the team's shooting troubles. "All the shots we got today were mostly all good looks. I was wide open a few times, Jamaal and Chase (Tapley) were wide open a few times, so those are going to fall later down the road. I'm not worried about that, I'm just worried about the defensive end and we took care of that and we played good defense today."
SDSU held the Bears to 28.1 percent shooting and finished with a 52-34 rebounding edge, which included 21 offensive rebounds. The Aztecs also had nine steals and nine blocks.
"The thing that's starting to impress me early in the season is another 21 offensive rebound performance," Dutcher said. "We're getting our missed shots, and that's going to speak well for the season if that continues to happen."
Missouri State opened the game on an 8-2 run and hung in there all afternoon. The Bears pulled to within four points with under seven minutes left in the game, but then James Rahon (10 points, four rebounds) and Chase Tapley hit back-to-back three's to increase SDSU's lead to 47-37 and Missouri State would not cut the lead to single digits for the rest of the game.
Anthony Downing led the Bears with 16 points.
SDSU had its best free throw shooting performance of this young season, shooting 69.2 percent from the charity stripe.
"When the ball's not going into the basket you've got to find other ways to score and we did it on the put-backs and on the foul line," Dutcher said.
At the end of the day, it wasn't aesthetically pleasing, but SDSU pulled out a chippy win after a long road trip in a game that Thames compared to a physical, grinding Mountain West conference game.
"We got some really good looks, but they played really physical," Dutcher said. "They tried to ride us over screens, they played physical with us, they guarded the ball hard. They had a lot to do with that; I'm not going to say we just missed open shots. They played a solid defensive game on their home floor."