SAN DIEGO (AP) — No. 25 Utah put up a good defensive showing against No. 16 San Diego State.
Unfortunately for the Utes, so did the Aztecs.
Utah shot 32 percent from the field in a 53-49 loss to San Diego State on Tuesday. The Aztecs were only slightly better at 32.7 percent, but they held on for the victory following a crazy final 47 seconds.
“Without a doubt we’re ahead of the game defensively, but we’re still trying to work some things out offensively and that was a good litmus test to see where we are and move forward,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
The Utes had long scoring droughts in both halves. They went 10 minutes in the first half without a field goal and then went 6 1/2 minutes without scoring in the second half.
“If you had told me we’d go 10 minutes without a field goal but had the lead at halftime, we must be doing some things right,” Krystkowiak said.
“Sometime when you don’t score it takes a toll on how you play defense,” he added. “That wasn’t the case. I can live with happened today because of how we played defensively. We hung in there and that’s a good lesson for us to learn.”
JJ O’Brien had 12 points and 11 rebounds for SDSU, which won its sixth straight game against its former conference rival Utah. The teams hadn’t met since 2011.
O’Brien, who played for Utah as a freshman, had no points and three rebounds in the first half, and SDSU trailed 18-17 at the break. The Aztecs looked like a different team in the second half, starting when O’Brien grabbed a rebound and then made a reverse layup 40 seconds in.
Angelo Chol scored six points during a 9-0 run that put SDSU (2-0) ahead for good.
The teams combined for 18 points in the final 46.8 seconds.
Utah pulled within three on a layup by Delon Wright and 3-pointers by Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. Aqeel Quinn made one free throw for SDSU in that span.
SDSU freshman Trey Kell then made two free throws with 16.8 seconds left to make it 51-46. It was Taylor’s fifth foul that sent the point guard to the line.
Wright pump-faked Skylar Spencer from behind the 3-point line and drew a foul with 10 seconds left. He made all three free throws to pull the Utes to 51-49.
Dwayne Polee II made two free throws with 9.5 seconds left for SDSU.
“The veterans didn’t play as well as we should have but the younger guys stepped up,” Wright said. “They played well, hit some shots and got some rebounds.”
Taylor had nine points for Utah (1-1).
With the score tied at 24 with 13 1/2 minutes to play, Chol, a transfer from Arizona, made consecutive buckets to start the key 9-0 run. He also made a jump hook in the run, which O’Brien capped with a jumper at 8:12.
While SDSU was on its run, the Utes went more than 6 1/2 minutes between baskets. By the time Chris Reyes snapped the drought with a shot off a rebound, the Utes were down 33-26.
Both teams were brutally cold from the floor in the first half. SDSU shot just 27.3 percent and Utah 22.7 percent. After leading by five midway through the first half, the Aztecs made only two field goals in the last 10 minutes.
Utah: The Utes lost three times to SDSU in 2010-11, the last season the teams were conference rivals.
SDSU: San Diego Padres manager Bud Black, a former Aztecs pitcher, sat courtside with his new boss, general manager A.J. Preller. Preller played JV hoops at Cornell.
Utah hosts UC Riverside on Friday
SDSU hosts Cal State Bakersfield on Thursday.