LAS VEGAS (AP)—San Diego State left Las Vegas with a school-record 14 straight wins and an unscathed record after two games that proved tougher than they looked going in.
D.J. Gay scored 18 points and the seventh-ranked Aztecs avoided a last-minute comeback to beat IUPUI 56-54 on Wednesday night at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
“It was almost like a boxing match,” IUPUI coach Ron Hunter said. “They threw a big haymaker, then we were able to throw it and get back into the game.”
Malcolm Thomas fell just shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, despite hurting a toe in his last game for San Diego State, which has its highest ranking in school history. The Aztecs were never ranked until this season.
After shooting an airball to end the first half, Gay took a charge to start the second, touching off a 20-5 run to give the Aztecs (14-0) the lead for good.
“I made a lot of rushed shots with the shot clock under five seconds,” Gay said. “I just had to keep on working.”
Gay said the Jaguars were ready to play but the Aztecs had no excuses for such a close game.
“A win is a win, and we grow from this,” he said.
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said he was more impressed with his team’s play Wednesday night compared with its performance in Tuesday night’s 62-56 win over San Francisco.
“Yesterday I was mad. Today I was not mad. We played hard,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to think that we didn’t compete tonight.”
Alex Young put the Jaguars (5-8) within two points with just over a minute left, but he missed a jumper on their next possession.
Young led IUPUI with 19 points, while Stephen Thomas had 11 and Christian Siakam 10.
The Aztecs have the nation’s second-longest active winning streak behind No. 1 Duke’s 21 straight.
For the second consecutive night San Diego State won despite showing flaws on both ends of the court. The Aztecs made just 3 of 20 3-point attempts and had 12 turnovers. Kawhi Leonard, the team’s leading scorer at 16.6 points per game coming in, was 3 for 10 from the field and had seven points.
Despite San Diego State’s big run, IUPUI was able to get back in the game with clutch shots from Young and Siakam, giving themselves a chance to tie or win in the game’s final moments.
“I wanted to get the 3 at the end. We were dead tired,” Hunter said. “They forced him to go to his right—he needed to go to his left.”
IUPUI led 29-27 at halftime after two key baskets from Young, including a steal and dunk with just under two minutes left and a jumper on his team’s last possession. The Aztecs started and finished the first half exactly the same way — with an airball.
San Diego State led by as many as six points with less than eight minutes left in the half, but poor shooting let the Jaguars tie the score at 23 and eventually take the lead.
The Aztecs made just one of 10 3-point attempts and shot 46.2 percent (12 of 26) in the first half.