Utah State had great ambitions for an upset Tuesday night, ambitions that seemed wildly optimistic in retrospect.
The Aggies (15-11, 5-9) left Viejas Arena profoundly humbled in a 60-45 defeat to No. 6 San Diego State, one of the ugliest games of the year for the visitors. The Aztecs’ length and speed caused the grinding gears of Utah State’s offensive to stick, and nothing the Aggies did seemed to change that they were the lesser team on the floor.
At the very least, Utah State wanted to show it could compete with the Mountain West’s premier program. And it didn’t even get that much, looking totally outclassed by the athletically superior Aztecs.
“We could’ve come in here and played well and gotten beat,” coach Stew Morrill said in a radio postgame interview on KVNU. “We didn’t. We played bad and got beat. It’s disappointing.”
The Aggies shot only 34 percent for the game, a figure that was lifted by a few last-ditch shots by the team’s reserves. Those final few points turned a 25-point fiasco into something a little more palatable.
But the game itself was never closer than the 35-22 deficit Utah State carried into halftime. Although the Aztecs weren’t as potent offensively as they were in the first half, the Aggies couldn’t pull out of their own slump.
Open shots were hard to come by, as San Diego State flexed the muscle of a team considered one of the top defensive squads in the country. The Aztecs ran through screens. Their outstretched fingers were often more than enough to make Utah State’s shots fly off-target.
And then there were the simple misses. Brick after brick led to scoring droughts that lasted many minutes.
Spencer Butterfield and Jarred Shaw each had 10 points to lead the Aggies, but the startling part was how many players weren’t productive.
Kyle Davis, Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland, who collectively played 62 minutes, did not score at all. Preston Medlin, often the engine driving Utah State’s offense, was 1-for-7 with five points and three assists.
The team’s second leading scorer, freshman Viko Noma’aea, hit his two 3-pointers in the closing 3 minutes of the game, helping a punchless Aggie offense save some face.
“It was like Saturday afternoon at the Rec,” Morrill said of the second half on KVNU. “Neither team could get much going.”
The Aggies took a 5-4 lead into the first media timeout, and that was the last time the game was truly competitive.
San Diego State went on a 24-6 run, which included a nearly six-minute dry spell for Utah State. The Aggies shot cold on the road, making only 9 of 26 first-half shots. Utah State also struggled greatly against the Aztecs’ pressure, coughing up 15 turnovers.
Matt Shrigley led San Diego State with 15 points, which included a 4-for-7 mark from the 3-point line.
With the loss, Utah State remained in eighth place in the conference. The Aggies return home Saturday for a matchup with seventh-place Fresno State.
Utah State can’t compete with Aztecs
• The Aggies shoot only 34 percent from the field for the game
• Utah State gives up 15 turnovers in the game to only 8 assists
• Spencer Butterfield, Jarred Shaw lead with 10 points each.