SAN DIEGO (AP) – Colorado State was already off to a slow start against No. 5 San Diego State when coach Larry Eustachy decided to bench Daniel Bejarano, the Rams’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.
The Rams fell behind by 19 points before closing the gap in the second half of a 65-56 loss Saturday.
Bejarano “has a lot of growing up to do,” Eustachy said. “I didn’t like the way some things went down so I decided not to play him the rest of the game. I just didn’t like his body language.”
Jon Octeus scored 24 for the Rams (12-10, 3-6 Mountain West), who have lost three in a row and four of five.
Bejarano’s benching “really hurt us,” Octeus said. “He’s one of our team’s leaders. I don’t really want to talk about that situation. I think we’re going to be fine. Coach Eustachy, he’s been in this situation before and we have a lot of trust in him. I think we’re going to be fine come conference tournament time.”
Xavier Thames scored 24 points and Winston Shepard had 17 to help Steve Fisher get his 300th win at San Diego State.
The Aztecs (19-1, 8-0) stretched their winning streak to 18 games and improved to 8-0 in conference play for the first time in the program’s 93-year history.
Fisher’s first victory at SDSU came on Nov 24, 1999, 73-57 against UC Riverside. The Aztecs were only 5-23 that season, including 0-14 in league play, but Fisher quickly turned a moribund program into a consistent winner.
The Aztecs are one victory shy of their 10th 20-win season under Fisher. They have gone to a school-record four straight NCAA tournaments and six overall.
SDSU is the 18th school to have a coach win 300 or more games. Fisher is 300-172 with the Aztecs and 484-254 for his coaching career.
Playing with their highest ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 since briefly reaching No. 4 in 2010-11, the Aztecs had a fast start against the Rams and were never threatened, taking leads of 11-4 and 25-8.
Colorado State didn’t reach double digits until Octeus made the first of two free throws with 4:10 left to make it 27-10. SDSU’s biggest lead, 29-10, came after Allen hit a bank shot.
The Rams then scored 10 points in the final 3:35 to close to 32-20 at halftime.
The Rams pulled to 54-47 with 5:12 left and had the ball before Thames grabbed a big rebound and Shepard had a tip-in with 3:16 left. Quinn hit a jumper about a minute later to make it 58-47.
SDSU then made five of six free throws, including four by Thames.
Last season, the Rams trailed the Aztecs by 18 at halftime and by 13 with less than eight minutes left before losing 79-72 in overtime at San Diego.
“We just took what kind of happened last year,” Octeus said. “We were down I think 18 here and we kind of used that. So we just wanted to tell our team, `Don’t worry, don’t get your heads down, they’ll let us back in, because it’s a long game, a lot of possessions.'”
– By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
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