SAN DIEGO — The No. 13 San Diego State Aztecs offered no apologies for an ugly win, just a reasonable explanation.
Dwayne Polee II scored 14 points and JJ O'Brien had 13 for the Aztecs, who beat San Diego 57-48 Thursday night for their ninth straight victory in the city rivalry.
The Aztecs (6-1) had 15 turnovers, 10 in the first half, and missed 14 of 27 free throw attempts. They made only six of 23 shots in the second half and shot just 37.3 percent overall.
Yet they had a decent cushion the whole game.
"I think that is a testament to our defense," Polee said. "Our whole philosophy is, next play. So even if our offense isn't rolling, we are still going to play as hard as we can on defense."
The Aztecs were playing their first game since a 61-59 loss to No. 3 Arizona in the championship game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 26.
San Diego State was 1 of 9 from the line at one point.
SDSU led by 10 points less than five minutes in and kept a big enough lead to keep USD from having a shot at an upset like last year, when Duda Sanadze's 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, letting SDSU escape with a 65-64 victory.
"The good news is we guarded like crazy," coach Steve Fisher said. "We made it hard for them to get good shots."
Freshman guard Trey Kell had 10 points for SDSU.
Johnny Dee scored 16 for USD (4-4). Christopher Anderson, who came in averaging 10.3 points, was held scoreless. He was 0 for 9 from the field, including six attempts from 3-point range.
"They did a great job harassing Chris," USD coach Bill Grier said. "Johnny didn't get any good looks. This is a credit to how they've recruited. It's a credit to their staff. They are an elite team defensively."
SDSU led 31-19 at halftime and let the Toreros close to 38-35 on a slam dunk by Jito Kok and a free throw by Cameron Neubauer with 13:44 left, the closest USD had been since it was 17-10 halfway through the first half.
The Aztecs regained the momentum with a five-point swing. Kell made a jumper and was fouled. He missed the free throw but O'Brien rebounded and the Aztecs worked it around to Polee, whose 3-pointer made it 40-28 with 13:11 left.
The Toreros closed to 55-48 when Dee was fouled taking a 3-pointer and made all three free throws with 48.4 seconds remaining.
Polee made two free throws with 47.3 seconds left to seal it.
SDSU shot 48.1 percent from the line.
"You're always concerned when you shoot less than 50 percent," said Fisher, who added that he's seen his players make free throws in practice. "You've got to step to the line, know you're going to make it and make it. I know we will. We could have done a better job of that tonight. We could have given ourselves more separation if we did that."
SDSU got 3-pointers from Polee and Kell in building leads of 8-0 and 13-3. USD's only basket in the first 3 1/2 minutes was a 3-pointer by Dee.
The Aztecs outrebounded USD 38-30, with Angelo Chol grabbing seven. Kok had 10 for the Toreros.
San Diego: Sanadze, USD's sixth man, didn't dress due to plantar fasciitis.
San Diego State: Fisher was recognized before the game for becoming the winningest coach in program history. The Aztecs' 74-57 victory against Pitt in the Maui semifinals was his 317th.
Grier said it was hard practicing for the Aztecs.
"You really can't prepare, until you see it in person, particularly for your young players, and their length and the way they defend," he said. "I can't emulate it in practice for our guys. We just don't have that."
"The cheers were funny, actually," O'Brien said about the crowd's reaction after the Aztecs made free throws. "We knew we weren't making free throws, but we can't worry about that in the midst of the game."
San Diego plays at UCLA on Sunday.
San Diego State plays at Washington on Sunday.