Getting to 300 wins 'says we've been here for a while. Not just me,' San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)
San Diego — When former Michigan coach Steve Fisher arrived at San Diego State in March 1999, the basketball program was barely an afterthought.
There was little tradition, little success and one of the best players in program history, Tony Gwynn, had become a superstar with baseball’s San Diego Padres.
That all changed under Fisher.
On Saturday, he earned his 300th win with the Aztecs in yet another milestone in his 14-plus seasons on Montezuma Mesa. Xavier Thames scored 24 points and Winston Shepard had 17 to lead No. 5 San Diego State to a 65-56 victory over Colorado State.
With leading rebounder Josh Davis sidelined by a bruised knee and forward Dwayne Polee out with an illness, the Aztecs (19-1, 8-0 Mountain West) won their 18th straight game and reached 8-0 in conference play for the first time in the program’s 93-year history.
In the locker room afterward, the players jumped up and down around Fisher and Thames presented him the game ball.
“He tried not to smile but he smiled,” Thames said.
“He was happy,” Shepard said.
“It’s not me, it’s we,” Fisher said. “Xavier Thames has been a part of a whole lot of victories for us, and Tim Shelton, who was standing in the corner, a whole lot of victories for us. It was neat.” Shelton, a former Aztecs player, is now director of player development.
Getting to 300 wins “says we’ve been here for a while. Not just me,” Fisher said. “I reflect back on our first year and the guys that were here that fought just as hard as this group did and we weren’t quite good enough to win. A lot of them are still hanging around and calling and emailing and texting to congratulate and I tell all of them, ‘Thank you. You’re part of it. You drove the stake pretty deep to build the foundation of what we’re doing.’ We’ve had a lot of players come and go and are still connected to the program. That makes me feel great.”
Fisher, who turns 69 on March 24, said he’s in no hurry to retire. Long-time assistant Brian Dutcher is designated as the head coach in waiting.
“I said in the locker room, ‘I don’t know, Winston, whether if you want to hear this, and I’m sure Dutcher doesn’t want to hear it, but I might go after 400 before I get out of here,’” Fisher said. “Who knows? I might feel good If I get teams like this. It makes it fun.”
Fisher’s first victory at SDSU came on Nov 24, 1999, 73-57 against UC Riverside. The Aztecs were only 5-23 that season, including 0-14 in league play.
It didn’t take him long to pump life into the program.
The Aztecs are one victory shy of their 10th 20-win season under Fisher. They have gone to a school-record four straight NCAA tournaments and six overall.
SDSU is the 18th school to have a coach win 300 or more games. Fisher is 300-172 with the Aztecs and 484-254 for his coaching career.
“He’s my favorite coach. He’s my favorite guy,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said. “I’m happy for him, 300 wins.”
Jon Octeus scored 24 for the Rams (12-10, 3-6), who have dropped three in a row and four of five.
Rams guard Daniel Bejarano, CSU’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, played only three minutes before being benched by Eustachy.
“He has a lot of growing up to do,” Eustachy said. “I didn’t like the way some things went down, so I decided not to play him the rest of the game. I just didn’t like his body language.”
Playing with their highest ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 since briefly reaching No. 4 in 2010-11, the Aztecs had a fast start and were never really threatened, taking leads of 11-4 and 25-8.
(At) No. 2 Syracuse 91, No. 17 Duke 89 (OT)
Jerami Grant scored eight points in overtime to finish with a career-high 24 and Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse stayed unbeaten, topping Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke in a matchup of the two winningest coaches in Division I history.
C.J. Fair scored a career-best 28 points as Syracuse (21-0, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) set a school record for consecutive wins to start a season before a Carrier Dome-record crowd of 35,446. The Orange and No. 4 Wichita State are the only remaining unbeaten teams.
Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon beat the buzzer in regulation with an off-balance 3-pointer that tied it at 78. The Blue Devils led 87-84 with 80 seconds left in overtime before Syracuse rallied.
Jabari Parker had 15 points and nine rebounds for Duke (17-5, 6-3) before fouling out in regulation. The Blue Devils get a chance to avenge the loss in three weeks when the teams meet again at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
(At) No. 3 Florida 69, Texas A&M 36
Michael Frazier II scored 21 points, Dorian Finney-Smith added 11 and No. 3 Florida overwhelmed Texas A&M.
The Gators (19-2, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) pushed their winning streak to 13 games and extended a school record for consecutive home wins to 27.
The latest one was another defensive gem. It tied the fewest points Florida has allowed in SEC play since 1950, matching last year’s defensive effort against South Carolina.
Florida held the Aggies (12-9, 3-5) to 26 percent shooting and 20 percent from 3-point range. The Gators also outrebounded Texas A&M 57-27.
(At) No. 4 Wichita State 81, Evansville 67
Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker had 14 points apiece, and Wichita State withstood an early barrage by Evansville.
Cleanthony Early scored 13 and Tekele Cotton added 12 points for the Shockers (23-0, 10-0 Missouri Valley), who haven’t lost since last year’s surprising run to the Final Four.
Wichita State spotted Evansville a 15-point lead before using a massive run to carry the advantage into halftime. The Shockers merely had to coast the final 10 minutes as the lead approached 20 points, wrapping up their latest convincing conference victory.
D.J. Balentine scored 26 points for the Purple Aces (10-13, 3-7).
(At) No. 25 Texas 81, No. 6 Kansas 69
Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points, Jonathan Holmes had 22 and Texas to its sixth consecutive victory.
Texas, which lost its top four scorers from last year’s 16-18 squad, has been the surprise of the Big 12. The Longhorns have four consecutive wins over Top 25 opponents and now sit in second place after dominating a team that had been playing as well as anyone in the country in recent weeks.
The Longhorns (17-4, 6-2) thumped the Jayhawks (16-5, 7-1) with suffocating defense that held the Big 12’s best shooting team to 39 percent from the floor. Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who averaged 24 points over the previous three games, scored seven before fouling out late.
Wayne Selden Jr., scored 21 for the Jayhawks.
Baylor 76, (at) No. 8 Oklahoma State 70
Brady Heslip scored a season-high 20 points to help Baylor end a five-game losing streak.
Rico Gathers had 14 points, Gary Franklin scored all 11 of his points in the second half and Cory Jefferson had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Baylor (14-7, 2-6 Big 12), which greatly improved its fading NCAA tournament hopes. The Bears had scored fewer than 70 points in four straight games, but shot 52 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cowboys 32-26.
Markel Brown scored 24 points and Le’Bryan Nash had 19 points for Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-4), which lost to rival Oklahoma 88-76 on Monday night. Marcus Smart added 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
(At) No. 9 Villanova 90, Temple 74
James Bell scored 19 points to lead Villanova to the win.
Villanova (19-2) improved to a perfect 4-0 record in Big 5 play and earned its 22nd Big 5 championship in program history.
Temple (6-14), meanwhile, missed out on a share of the city title and an opportunity to upset a top-10 team for the sixth consecutive season.
The Wildcats took a five-point lead at the half and stretched it to as much as 24, at 64-40, with 10:17 to play.
Will Cummings had 24 points for the Owls.
No. 11 Kentucky 84, (at) Missouri 79
Aaron Harrison scored 21 points and James Young added 20 to power Kentucky to the victory.
The Wildcats (16-5, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) kept their poise one game after calling a players-only meeting to discuss the team’s issues away from home.
Jabari Brown finished with a career-high 33 points and Jordan Clarkson scored 28 to keep Missouri (16-5, 4-4) in the game. Clarkson’s layup with 51.9 seconds remaining narrowed the Tigers’ deficit to 80-77, but Aaron Harrison answered with a layup 30 seconds later to end the threat.
(At) No. 12 Louisville 87, Central Florida 70
Russ Smith scored 27 points and Luke Hancock added 16 to help Louisville pull away from Central Florida.
Despite several rough spots that allowed the Knights to stay close, the Cardinals (18-4, 7-2 American Athletic Conference) stayed safely ahead by making 52 percent (32 of 62) from the field.
Montrezl Harrell had 14 points and seven rebounds and Wayne Blackshear added 10 points in his first start in five games as Louisville bounced back from Thursday night’s loss to No. 13 Cincinnati.
Tristan Spurlock scored 20 points for UCF (9-10, 1-7).
(At) No. 16 Iowa State 81, No. 23 Oklahoma 75
Sophomore Georges Niang scored a career-high 27 points and Iowa State held on for its second win in six games.
Melvin Ejim had 22 points and 16 rebounds for his 28th double-double as the Cyclones (16-4, 4-4) moved back to .500 in the Big 12.
Niang buried a 3 to put Iowa Stata ahead 76-70 with 55.5 second left.
Buddy Hield scored a career-high 30 points for Oklahoma (17-5, 6-3), which outrebounded Iowa State 46-33.
(At) No. 19 Saint Louis 87, George Mason 81 (OT)
Rob Loe scored 10 of his career-high 23 points in overtime, leading Saint Louis to the victory.
Loe hit a tying 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in regulation and then hit another 3-pointer to start overtime, giving the Billikens the lead for good.
Saint Louis (20-2, 7-0 Atlantic 10) has reeled off 14 victories in a row, the sixth-longest active winning streak in the country. The winning streak ties the school record.
It’s the first time the Billikens have been 20-2 in school history.
Bryon Allen scored 30 points and Patrick Holloway added 15 for George Mason (7-14, 0-7).
(At) Saint Joseph's 73, No. 21 Massachusetts 68
Halil Kanacevic scored 18 points and Saint Joseph’s broke away from a late tie to get the win.
UMass rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half and made it 68-all in the final minute. Saint Joseph’s hit five foul shots to win.
Kanacevic added six rebounds and five assists. Ronald Roberts scored 17 for the Hawks (15-6, 5-2 Atlantic 10).
Derrick Gordon scored 21 and Chaz Williams finished with 16 points and 10 assists for the Minutemen (17-4, 4-3).
(At) SMU 87, No. 22 Memphis 72
Nic Moore had 14 points and 10 assists, and SMU stayed undefeated at home.
The Tigers (16-5, 6-3 American Athletic) lost a conference road game for the first time in two years.
Moore had an assist on Markus Kennedy’s tiebreaking layup right after halftime. Moore then added 3-pointers in the 10-2 spurt in just over 2 minutes that put SMU (17-5, 6-3) ahead to stay and in control.
Kennedy had 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for his sixth career double-double.
Joe Jackson led Memphis with 22 points, while Geron Johnson had 18 and Michael Dixon Jr. 13.