CHASE TAPLEY thinks Indiana State gave No. 18 San Diego State its toughest test of the season.
Now he hopes it pushes the Aztecs forward as they look toward Mountain West play and a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
"We need games like that for later on," said Tapley, who scored 13 points as the Aztecs (11-1) beat Indiana State, 62-55, despite poor free-throw and three-point shooting. "It gives us good experience."
Jamaal Franklin had 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead San Diego State to the finals of the Diamond Head Classic tournament, set for Tuesday.
San Diego State pulled ahead for good during a seven-point run that included five straight points from Tapley. With less than 5 minutes to play, Tapley drove to the basket and was stopped by Jake Odum, who was called for a flagrant foul. Tapley made two free throws, and a quick three-pointer on the ensuing possession, giving the Aztecs a 51-44 lead.
The Sycamores (6-4) got no closer than three points after that. "Every trip down the floor seemed like a big possession," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "Both teams came up empty at times."
Franklin was one rebound shy of his career high, set last season against Colorado State. Xavier Thames had 12 points.
RJ Mahurin had 15 points, and Manny Arop added 13 for Indiana State.
"We knew it was going to be tough, and coming in we'd have to grind and grind," Mahurin said.
Neither team established a clear advantage beyond a few key runs until San Diego State gained control late. The game had five ties and six lead changes.
"They made us guard for 35 seconds and make baskets as the shot clock was going out," Fisher said. "The shots that were falling like raindrops [Saturday] weren't going in."
After the game, Indiana State coach Greg Lansing was visibly upset as he looked at the box score, expressing disappointment with the Sycamores' seven assists compared to 17 turnovers.
"We regained our composure, took a deep breath and allowed defense to create some offense and make free throws down the stretch after missing so many early on," Fisher said. "It wasn't the prettiest of games, but hard fought by both teams."