Barry Gutierrez, Associated Press
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — San Diego State coach Steve Fisher wasn't interested in a convenient excuse for his team's poor shooting.
The Aztecs got beat. End of story.
No, Fisher didn't think his team's travel problems earlier in the week had anything to do with their shooting woes in a 77-60 loss to Colorado State on Saturday. The 13th-ranked Aztecs simply couldn't find the range as their 11-game winning streak came to a halt.
San Diego State (18-3, 4-1 Mountain West) shot just 31 percent against the Rams (14-6, 3-2), perhaps due in part to its arduous traveling adventures. Because of heavy snow, it took 20 hours to arrive in Laramie, Wyo., for a game against the Cowboys.
After beating Wyoming 52-42 on Tuesday, the Aztecs chartered a flight and flew back home, not wanting to miss any more class time than necessary. Then they returned to the Front Range to face Colorado State.
Was it possible they were drained? Fisher wouldn't even entertain that notion.
"I hate it when people try to say we didn't do this or we didn't do that," he said. "We got beat by a better basketball team today. I don't think they're a better basketball team, but they were today. They beat us."
Colorado State fans packed into Moby Arena thanks to the promise of free pizza and T-shirts. They were treated to quite a show, too.
Wes Eikmeier scored 19 points and Colorado State made all 23 of its free throws for its first home win over a ranked team in more than eight years.
Will Bell added 17 points and the Rams frustrated the Aztecs all afternoon, limiting them to 3-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.
It was the first time Colorado State beat a Top 25 team at Moby since knocking off Purdue 71-69 on Dec. 30, 2003. Fans were eager to join the celebration as the student section rushed onto the floor, some waving cardboard cutouts of Rams coach Tim Miles and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
This was just what the Rams needed after dropping two straight on the road, putting a serious crimp in their NCAA tournament hopes. They needed a signature victory like this on their resume.
"It gives us hope," Eikmeier said. "But at the same time, we are still humble because of our last two games. We know how bad we can be. We know how good we can be."
The good version of the Rams certainly showed up Saturday. They set a conference record by going 23 for 23 at the foul line.
"Feels good," Bell said. "But we have to build on it. We can't build our whole season on this."
Jamaal Franklin had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Aztecs. Chase Tapley, the conference's leading scorer, was held to 10 points. He was averaging 16.4.
"We were not productive with our offense," Fisher said.
The Aztecs certainly weren't: Xavier Thames, James Rahon and Tapley were a combined 6 for 36.
Colorado State's swarming defense had something to do with that. Playing man-to-man defense, the Rams were constantly pestering San Diego's outside shooters, hardly ever giving them a clear look.
"I think we caught them on a bad shooting game, which helped," Miles said. "That's why we were able to extend. If they had been a little hotter, it could have been an unbelievable game."
Colorado State led by as many as 18 points midway through the second half, then weathered a late surge by San Diego State, which hadn't lost since Nov. 30 against Creighton. The Aztecs turned up the pressure and whittled the deficit to 12 with 4:11 remaining.
That's when the Rams became more deliberate on offense, draining time off the clock and waiting for the Aztecs to foul them. Colorado State hit 12 free throws down the stretch to end a nine-game skid against San Diego State.
"This is a start in the right direction," Miles said.
When ranked in The Associated Press poll, the Aztecs have been very successful against unranked teams, entering this game with a 38-0 mark. But they never found their shooting touch.
Just don't blame it on tired legs.
"I'm not going to place the blame on us traveling. We understand how our conference is and the climates," forward Tim Shelton said. "That's not the reason at all."
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