Tapley keys 24-3 run that carries No. 22 Aztecs
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) The No. 22 San Diego State Aztecs let Chicago State hang around long enough that the Cougars felt like they were actually going to win a game.
The wakeup call came in plenty of time, though, for the Aztecs to avoid what would have been an embarrassing loss heading into Mountain West Conference play.
Chase Tapley scored 13 of his 24 points during a 24-3 run in the second half and the Aztecs overcame a scare to run past winless Chicago State 73-65 on Tuesday night.
Jamaal Franklin had seven of his 16 points during the big run for the Aztecs (14-2), who won their seventh straight game to continue the second-fastest start in school history. Franklin also had 10 rebounds.
Chicago State (0-16), which played to a 32-32 halftime tie, stunned the Aztecs with a 7-0 run to open the second half. Jeremy Robinson hit an inside bucket and a turnaround jumper, and a slam dunk by D'Jari Nelson had the Cougars celebrating and forced SDSU coach Steve Fisher to call timeout.
That woke up the Aztecs, who came racing back with a 10-1 run that gave them a 42-40 lead. Tapley started the run with a layup and two more baskets, and Tim Shelton and Franklin each made a layup as the Aztecs dominated inside.
Nelson scored off a rebound to tie it at 42, Chicago State's last bucket for nearly five minutes.
While the Cougars went cold, the Aztecs kept running. Tapley scored seven more points, including on a feed from Shelton off a missed 3-pointer by James Rahon, a three-point play and another layup that gave the Aztecs a 56-42 lead with 9:34 to go.
Afterward, Fisher told Tapley that he and his teammates deserved a mulligan.
"I said, `Chase, do you know what a mulligan is?' And he said no. And James said, `He doesn't play golf.' I said, `You're deserving of a do-over. If you're honest with yourself, you created some of what happened tonight. We allowed Chicago State to believe they were going to win the game.' And they played well."
The Aztecs will have to use that mulligan on Saturday, when they host preseason MWC favorite and No. 12 UNLV. SDSU shared the conference title last year with BYU.
The Aztecs were tested for the first time in five games. They had cruised in their previous four games, beating UC Riverside by 25 points, Elon by 26, Redlands by 51 and San Diego Christian by 31.
"We did not react the right way," Fisher said. `' We got a nice, comfortable early lead and it looked like it was going to be like last time, and the time before, and it wasn't. And we didn't handle ourselves well. We did a poor job of how we managed our own emotions. We got frustrated, we got mad at one another, we got mad at ourselves, we got mad at the officials. We did everything but bow our back and play better.
"But part of that is me. I helped create that. I told them three games ago, `You should be 14-2 going into league play. That will be a great testament to you.' So I did all the things that allowed this to happen. So if you fall on the sword, I'm the first guy that should fall the sword. I told them that. But, you know that we didn't do what, really, championship teams do. You've done it before."
Shelton and Xavier Thames each came back from knee injuries to get playing time in preparation for the league schedule.
Matt Samuels scored 17 for the Cougars. Robinson had 14 and Nelson 11.
Chicago State is coached by Tracy Dildy, who played at San Diego State from 1985-87.
"I really thought we had a chance to win in the second half," Dildy said. "This is what we've been talking about for the last three days - believe. I told them this is a Top 20 program and nobody expects us to have a chance. We had nothing to lose."
After the Cougars held early leads, San Diego State seemed to take control with a barrage of 3-pointers by Rahon and Tapley. Chicago State slowly reeled it in behind 12 points in the half by Samuels, including a 3-pointer that pulled it within four and a baseline jumper at the buzzer.
"We really believed we were going to win," Robinson said. "We were doing the things we had to but we couldn't stop them when we needed to."
Updated January 11, 2012