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Aztecs thwart Lobos, make early statement

SAN DIEGO — It was, as San Diego State coach Steve Fisher is fond of saying, a resume-building win.

Malcolm Thomas had 18 points and 15 rebounds to carry San Diego State to a 74-64 upset of No. 15 New Mexico on Tuesday in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

The Aztecs (12-3) have won four straight games and nine of 10, and they won this one despite playing the last 26 minutes without leading scorer Billy White, a Green Valley High School product, who sprained his right ankle.

“We talked about beating a Pac-10 team, but we beat a team in our own league that’s highly regarded,” Fisher said. “I told our team if the NCAA Tournament started yesterday, New Mexico would be in as a (No.) 4 or 5 seed, BYU would be in and Vegas would be in, and we’d be the little stepchild knocking on the door and nodding. But I said, ‘There’s 16 games to go.’

“This is a nice win for us that people will now say, ‘Hey, San Diego State beat New Mexico.’ “

New Mexico (14-2), the defending conference champion, lost for the second time in four games.

“You have to give San Diego State a lot of credit,” Lobos coach Steve Alford said. “I thought they did a good job defensively. Their size bothered us. Malcolm Thomas (6 feet 9 inches, 215 pounds) was really good in the second half. I thought he dominated our big men.”

Thomas said White “is our energy guy on the court. When he went out, we didn’t really hang our heads, but we tried to figure out where that energy was going to come from.”

White was injured with 5:45 to play in the first half and the Aztecs trailing 27-26. He didn’t return, finishing with eight points. He later came out to the bench in street clothes and on crutches.

Thomas put on a show in the final minutes, scoring seven straight points for the Aztecs. He had a shot blocked but grabbed the ball and dunked for a 60-51 lead with 6:22 left. He made 1 of 2 free throws, a reverse baseline layup, then a transition layup after an Aztecs steal for a 65-55 lead.

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