December 19, 2014

San Diego State doesn't seem too concerned following its worst defensive effort of the season.

Based on the way visiting Ball State has looked offensively of late, the No. 19 Aztecs would appear to have a good chance at bouncing back from their third loss in five games Saturday night.

San Diego State (7-3) hadn't allowed an opponent to shoot better than 41.4 percent until Wednesday's 71-62 overtime loss at Cincinnati, which hit 47.2 percent. It was the second-most points allowed by the Aztecs this season.

They still rank among the national leaders in scoring defense (56.6 points per game) and defensive field-goal percentage (37.1) but were left frustrated Wednesday. The Bearcats came in shooting 41.8 percent but went 15 of 24 after halftime and totaled 14 second-chance points despite a 16-11 disadvantage on the offensive glass.

"We've got to get better," said forward Winston Shepard, who had a game-high 17 points. "We've got to get better on defense. Defense is our staple. A lot of people talk about offense, but we've got to get better at the other end of the floor."

As was the case while winning 31 games in 2013-14, San Diego State has used its strong defensive approach to compensate for an inconsistent offense. The Aztecs are averaging 62.3 points on the season and shooting 37.2 percent in the last five games.

However, coach Steve Fisher doesn't believe one uncharacteristically poor defensive effort will damage his team's psyche.

"We've got kids that compete and the theme was compete, compete to win, do what's required and we didn't do quite enough," said Fisher, whose team also lost by two to No. 3 Arizona and by 13 on the road to an undefeated Washington team currently ranked 16th.

"If it doesn't hurt to the point where you say 'I have to get better, I have to take what I did positively' and (then) say 'I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to eliminate one or two things on the negative in my game.' And if you do that it will be better off as we move forward with our schedule."

Winners of 23 straight home games against unranked opponents, the Aztecs have a good chance to get back on track during a favorable three-game stretch at Viejas Arena before opening Mountain West Conference play against Air Force on Dec. 31.

Ball State (3-5) has averaged 59.5 points and shot 36.1 percent while losing three of four. The Cardinals hit a season-low 29.8 percent of their shots in dropping their second straight contest Wednesday, 72-52 to James Madison.

Guard Zavier Turner averages a team-leading 13.7 points but was held to nine on 2-of-12 shooting against the Dukes.

Ball State, which won 82-65 in the last meeting with the Aztecs on Dec. 27, 1999, has dropped 19 straight against Top 25 opponents.

It's uncertain if key San Diego State reserve Angelo Chol will be available Saturday after he aggravated a bothersome left knee versus Cincinnati. The junior forward is averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds.

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