Surging No. 25 San Diego State ready for Fresno State

NCAA Basketball

San Diego State is back in the Top 25 after nearly a two-month absence, ranked No. 25, as it prepares to play at Fresno State on Thursday.

The Aztecs (15-4, 9-3 Mountain West) were ranked as high as No. 18 on Dec. 14 but fell out of the top 25 a week later following a 72-62 home loss against BYU.

“It’s nice to see your name up there,” guard Jordan Schakel told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We know we just have to keep winning. A couple weeks ago, when we had lost twice in a row, we weren’t anywhere near (the Top 25). We got here by winning games.”

San Diego State has won six straight games against Air Force, Wyoming and San Jose State by an average of 29.8 points. Those teams were 316, 192 and 326, respectively, in the NCAA’s NET metric as of Tuesday.

The Aztecs were No. 24 in the NET as of Tuesday. They play Fresno State, No. 206, on Thursday and Saturday before a pair of games against No. 38 Boise State next week.

Schakel, who averages 14.7 points per game and is shooting a team-best 45 percent from 3-point range, was named the Mountain West Player of the Week after scoring 47 points in the Aztecs’ two wins against San Jose State last week. He made 10 of 20 shots from 3-point range in those games.

San Diego State’s Matt Mitchell is likely to play after practicing Monday without a knee brace for the first time this season. He hyperextended his right knee on Jan. 14 at Utah State. He was told by team trainers he would have to wear the brace for precautionary reasons for a month.

“The knee is 100 percent,” said Mitchell, who leads the Aztecs with 15.0 points per game. “I’m happy to finally be out of that and step on the court without a brace and not feel like Robocop.”

Fresno State (9-7, 7-7) is coming off a two-game sweep of Air Force on the road last weekend.

Orlando Robinson had game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds to secure his seventh double-double of the season (12th of his Fresno State career) in Saturday’s 67-64 win.

Robinson is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (14.8 points a game) and rebounder (9.4 rebounds a game).

“We’re talking a lot, to all the guys,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said when asked of the development of Robinson, a sophomore forward. “When you’re on the road for this long, I mean, you’re meeting in the hotel individually, you’re watching film together.

“To tell you the truth, a lot of the talks are mentality, starting with your mentality. We’re still teaching, and I thought he responded well.”

Fresno State is 32-9 in Hutson’s tenure when allowing less than 70 points. The Bulldogs are 9-1 this season when that happens.

Hutson was an assistant at San Diego State previously in two stints from 2006-11 and 2013-18.

–Field Level Media

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