Franklin’s work paying off; Leonard OK

by Edward Lewis

Leonard stares down Utah. Courtesy of Antonio Zaragoza.

LAS VEGAS — The San Diego State men’s basketball team didn’t quite cover the 16-point spread, but it still pulled out its 30th win of the season, and its first win of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, against Utah on Thursday night. Take a look at some of the news and notes from SDSU’s MWC Tournament quarterfinals victory.

Leonard doing fine

For a few minutes in the second half of Thursday night’s game in Las Vegas, Aztec fans all across the country held their breath.

Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard hobbled over to the trainer, clutched his back and had to be taken into the locker room.

“I looked around when I was going to put him back in and said, ‘Where did he go?’” head coach Steve Fisher said of Leonard. “He said he got elbowed in the back and it cramped up on him.”

Leonard came back to the court a few minutes later and entered the game shortly after. The superstar forward and future NBA Draft pick still managed to record his 39th career double-double, posting 13 points and 12 rebounds. After the game, he said he was fine.

“It’s just a little cramp,” Leonard said. “Just needed to get it stretched out. But it’s no serious injury.”

Shooting slump

There was a time at the beginning of the season when it appeared D.J. Gay could not miss from behind the arc.

Lately, Gay’s 3-point shot has been the exact opposite.

In his last five games, Gay is 7-for-35 from 3-point land. On Thursday against the Utes, he was 1-for-6 from long distance.

“I’m in a slump; it happens,” Gay said. “Hopefully it’ll wear off in not too long. Hopefully I can shoot my way out of it.”

Gay said he doesn’t know why the slump is happening, but he has an idea of how to fix it. He said he’s going to try to shoot more mid-range jumpers early on and get to the foul line more so he can “get a better feel” for his shot.

“I just got to find my way out of it,” he said.

Freshman flurry

Fisher was asked a question about freshman forward Jamaal Franklin’s big game and then he delivered a punchline that had some media members in stitches:

“He should demand more playing time,” Fisher said with a smile.

Franklin scored nine points, grabbed a rebound, had one blocked shot and tallied two steals. He made three of four 3-pointers and played 11 minutes

“Jamaal has made significant improvement,” Fisher said. “If you watched him in September, he’s totally revamped his shot … He’s a keeper.”

Aztecs home cooking

After Franklin buried a 3-pointer in the second half against Utah, he did a dance where it looked like he was carving a turkey. Some bench players did it too. After the game, Franklin told The Daily Aztec what it was all about.

“It’s called the ‘Cooking Dance,’” Franklin said. “We all do it when somebody’s doing real good.”

The dance, Franklin said, was originated by rapper Lil B. It basically requires you to dance as if you’re cooking a meal. The team picked it up and has been using it as a team dance all season.

Short Shots

Malcolm Thomas set a career-high with eight assists. He was two dimes away from a triple double. … The Aztecs have now won five consecutive games over Utah. … SDSU improved its record to 30-2.

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