AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — KJ Feagin is rolling with his outside shot.
San Diego State also is humming along quite nicely.
Feagin scored 21 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and the fourth-ranked Aztecs remained the nation’s lone unbeaten team by beating Air Force 89-74 Saturday night.
“I just think I’m finding the rhythm finally,” said Feagin, who has 54 points in his last three games, connecting on 14 3-pointers in that span. “To start the year, my jump shot wasn’t really going but it’s starting to pick up at the right time, when things really matter. We’re getting into the thick of things going into March, so I’m just glad the ball is starting to go through the rim for me.”
Jordan Schakel had 18 points for San Diego State (24-0, 13-0), which is off to the nation’s best season-opening run since the 2016-17 Gonzaga team began the year 29-0. Malachi Flynn scored 17 points, and Matt Mitchell had 16.
The Aztecs’ 13-0 conference opening is also the best start to a season in Mountain West history.
San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said the Aztecs extended their winning streak “by hitting big shot after big shot” down the stretch. Despite allowing the most points by an opponent in their last 28 games, the Aztecs closed it out against Air Force by finishing on a 22-10 run.
“We needed those shots and it felt good for them to fall,” Feagin said. “They were giving us their best shot. We didn’t come here thinking they were just going to lay down and it was going to be a blowout. We knew we were going to have to fight for 40 minutes and that’s what we did. We just came up and made shots when it mattered.”
Chris Joyce scored 23 points for Air Force (9-15, 3-9), which fell to 4-86 against ranked opponents. The Aztecs tied for the highest ranked opponent to play Air Force at Clune Arena. The Falcons played No. 4 ranked Utah here on Jan. 22, 1998.
Lavelle Scottie had 16 points and Caleb Morris had 12 for the Falcons, who lost their sixth straight.
“Eight-nine points, that’s too many for us to beat a team like that,” Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. “The pace in the second half got a little carried away for us.”
Air Force tried to run down San Diego State down the stretch. Joyce connected from 3-point range and Scottie hit a jumper to help the Falcons close to 65-58 with 11:09 to play. A layup by Scottie capped a 6-0 burst that made it 67-64 with 6:45 remaining.
San Diego State answered with a driving layup by Nolan Narain and Mitchell’s long 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired, rebuilding the Aztecs’ lead to 72-64 with 4:42 left.
San Diego State: The Aztecs lowered their magic number to two to clinch the conference’s regular-season title, asserting themselves offensively in the late going to pull away for the victory. The Aztecs already own 11 Mountain West titles.
Air Force: The Falcons turned in a scrappy effort but were unable to overcome the Aztecs’ speed and perimeter shooting.
KEEP IT GOING
“I just told them embrace it. This doesn’t happen, so embrace the streak.” — Dutcher on what he has told his players about the team’s 24-game winning streak.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
San Diego State had only six turnovers in the game. Including just one in the last 29 minutes. That made it more difficult for Air Force to rally.
“Teams have to beat us in the half court because we don’t have live-ball turnovers that lead to layups,” Dutcher said. “We take care of the ball and we make it a half-court game. It’s hard to score enough points in the half court to beat us normally because you really have to shoot the 3.”
San Diego State: Hosts New Mexico on Tuesday night.