FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- San Diego State senior D.J. Gay was having a tough shooting night against Colorado State, yet when he got the inbounds pass with the score tied and 10 seconds left his coach decided not to call a timeout.
"I knew D.J. would do something good with the ball," Steve Fisher said of his senior Captain Clutch.
Sure enough, Gay deked out the defense, stepping back to swish an 18-foot fadeaway jumper over two defenders with 1.8 seconds left to lift the Aztecs (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) past Colorado State 56-54 Wednesday night.
"We have some pros on this team and we all know our role," Gay said.
And his is to come through in the clutch, which he's done again and again in his four seasons.
James Rahon scored 15 points and Kawhi Leonard posted his 32nd career double-double with 12 points and 15 boards for the Aztecs (22-1, 7-1 Mountain West), who got quite a scare from the Rams (15-7, 5-3).
Colorado State might have pulled off the upset had the Rams not been so off-the-mark from the free throw line, where they were just 14-of-22 compared to San Diego State's 8-of-10 performance.
"Sometimes," Fisher said afterward, "the best timeout's no timeout."
"I knew one thing, that when D.J. had the ball at the end of the game, we weren't going to do something foolish," Fisher explained. "We were either going to make a basket or we were going to go to overtime. I was 100 percent positive of that. And I knew he would make a good decision with the ball."
So Fisher didn't cringe when Gay, who was just 2-for-8 from the floor, stepped back and let it go.
Emboldened when he didn't hear the whistle for a timeout, "I knew it was my time to make a play," said Gay, who was stopped by a double team, went left and found himself facing Dorian Green and Travis Franklin just inside the arc.
"I acted like I was going to go to the basket," Gay said.
Franklin cut him off and Green gave him too much space.
"And that's when I stepped back."
And popped the net to silence the crowd.
"When the game's on the line, I do want the ball in my hands to make a play," Gay said. "But if somebody's open, I'm obviously going to give it up."
It's just that he saw nobody with a better shot than he had.
Gay wasn't through, either.
He ran back downcourt and intercepted Adam Nigon's long inbounds pass, cradling it as the buzzer sounded and his teammates mobbed him.
"I could only be excited for half a second before I realized there was still 1.8 seconds left on the clock and they could still get a shot off," Gay said. "It was important for me to hit that shot, but it was most important to get back on the defense and not give them an opportunity to get the shot up."
The win kept the Aztecs in a first-place tie with BYU atop the Mountain West with five of their last eight conference games at home.
Andy Ogide scored 18 points and pulled down a dozen rebounds for the Rams, who haven't beaten a top-25 opponent since upsetting 25th-ranked Air Force in the 2004 Mountain West Conference postseason tournament despite several close calls.
"People that don't know our league and who have not in person watched Colorado State will say, 'Man, that was too close, wasn't it?' " Fisher predicted. "This is a big-time win. This is a good team. This team and Air Force are by far the two most improved teams in our league and two of the most improved teams in the country.
"So, this was a big win for us. This was a huge win for us."