SAN DIEGO -- Jamaal Franklin stole the show on Senior Night at San Diego State, which was fine with the upperclassmen.
The sophomore guard matched his career high with 31 points and added a career-high 16 rebounds for the Aztecs (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP), who beat Colorado State 74-66 on Saturday night to pull into a tie for first place in the Mountain West Conference with New Mexico (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) and UNLV (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP).Franklin scored 13 of SDSU's final 16 points in the last 4:25."Actually, in the huddle before, I said this game does represent some seniors leaving, but it also represents a showcase of what we have still coming back next year to the home fans," said Tim Shelton, one of two seniors. "I expected nothing less than for Jamaal to show up tonight. He definitely did. He got us going. Nobody players harder than Jamaal. He just really cares. It was awesome."Franklin matched the 31 points he scored against UC Davis on Nov. 13. His previous rebounding high was 11, which he accomplished twice earlier this season.He went 14 for 15 from the free-throw line."I don't really ever feel I need to take over a game offensively because we have a lot of offensive threats," Franklin said. "I just try to let the game come to me and I play my game, and if it comes, it comes."Said CSU coach Tim Miles: "He had a career night. It seemed like every time they needed a big play, he came up with it."Playing before what coach Steve Fisher called an "electric" crowd at Viejas Arena, Xavier Thames scored all 15 of his points in the second half and James Rahon had 14 as the Aztecs (22-6, 8-4) picked up their intensity and avenged one of their more painful losses of the season. CSU routed SDSU by 17 points on Jan. 28, ending the Aztecs' 11-game winning streak and beginning a stretch in which they lost four of six.The Rams (17-10, 6-6) were coming off a home upset of New Mexico, which has lost two straight.With the Aztecs leading by four, Chase Tapley picked up a loose ball and passed it to Franklin, whose emphatic slam dunk gave SDSU a 65-59 lead with 2:30 left."A momentum killer," Miles said. "Those are the kind of plays that make a difference in the game."Thames followed with a jumper on SDSU's next possession for an eight-point cushion."Everybody will talk about Jamaal, and he was unbelievable," Fisher said. "He just wills himself to do things. But it was more than Jamaal. I felt we did good job of guarding them. They're good. They're hard to keep out of the lane."San Diego State made 20 of 24 foul shots while CSU went 9 for 11 from the line. Four weeks earlier, CSU had made 23 of 23 free throws."A huge difference, and it's all predicated on defense," Fisher said.Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green scored 14 apiece for the Rams. Pierce Hornung had 11."Any loss this time of the year is going to be a big loss," Miles said. "That's what every 17-10 team in the country is saying right now."Colorado State outhustled the Aztecs in taking a 34-30 halftime lead, but San Diego State finally matched the effort early in the second half. With CSU leading 36-32, Franklin made a jumper and Thames then made three straight baskets. Thames' layup put SDSU ahead 38-36 for its first lead since 3-2 in the opening minutes. Hornung made a reverse layup to tie it before Thames again gave SDSU the lead with a jumper.SDSU had a four-point lead until Eikmeier hit a long 3-pointer. Rahon responded with a 3 to extend SDSU's lead back to 49-45.Colorado State took a 52-51 lead on Jesse Carr's 3 with 8:10 to go before SDSU regained the lead for good on Thames' floater.Colorado State took its first-half lead by waiting for open shots and dominating on the boards.The Rams led 21-12 midway through the opening half. The Aztecs went on an 8-0 run to pull within a point but couldn't get the lead. Hornung made a layup and converted a three-point play to extend CSU's lead to 26-20. CSU's final two baskets of the half were off offensive rebounds, the first by Will Bell and then Hornung, who tipped the ball twice before it went in.Rahon kept the Aztecs close with two 3-pointers in the final minute.