Fisher's Aztecs face long odds to win Mountain West tourney
SAN DIEGO (AP) Steve Fisher's San Diego State Aztecs aren't used to being in this position.
Here they are though, having won only 17 games and being forced into a play-in game in the Mountain West Conference Tournament after finishing just sixth in the regular-season standings.
It was a jarring drop-off for SDSU, which had won or shared the last three regular-season titles.
Starting with Wednesday afternoon's game against No. 11 seed UNLV on its home floor, the Aztecs must win four straight games to win the tournament title and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
''Honestly, at this point, we got what we deserved,'' said senior guard Dakarai Allen, who on Tuesday was named MWC Defensive Player of the Year. ''We haven't performed as well as we needed to. We haven't done the things we needed to do to win close games, to come back when we were down.''
The Aztecs (17-13, 9-9 MWC) have beaten UNLV (11-20, 4-14) 10 straight times.
If SDSU makes it 11 straight against the Runnin' Rebels, they'll face No. 3 Boise State, which beat the Aztecs in their only meeting this season, 78-66 in Boise on Jan. 7.
SDSU won four straight games only once this season, at home against Alabama State and then against Southern Miss, Tulsa and San Francisco to win the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
They were erratic at best in league play, losing their first three games and three of their final four.
The only thing the Aztecs did with consistency in conference play was blow leads. They blew five double-digit leads in their nine league losses. In their other four losses, they had seven-point leads three times and a shot at the buzzer to force overtime in the other.
Junior guard Trey Kell believes the Aztecs can win four straight, based on ''proving that we can play with any team. It's just one of those things we haven't done consistently. If we can turn that around right now, play consistent, we feel like we can win four games.''
The Aztecs' inconsistency has started with poor shooting. They were 10th in the league at 41.6 percent from the field, last in 3-point shooting at 31.1 percent and eighth from the free throw line at 69.9 percent.
If they don't win four straight games, they'll be relegated to a lesser tournament for the second straight year after making a six-year run in the NCAA Tournament. Last year they made it to the NIT national semifinals before losing to George Washington at Madison Square Garden.
This is the first time in 12 seasons the Aztecs didn't win at least 20 games.
SDSU hasn't won the MWC Tournament since 2011, although it reached the championship game each of the last three seasons.
''We are heading to Vegas to do what not a lot of other people other than ourselves believe we can do, and that's win four games,'' said Fisher, who is in his 18th season at SDSU. ''We've given them both reason to believe we can't and we've given them reason to believe that we can. So that's the challenge for all of us. Go in and play well, survive and advance.''
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