SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off a big win over No. 6 Kentucky, Utah failed to capitalize on the momentum and lost to No. 20 San Diego State 80-52 Saturday in Los Angeles as part of the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
The Aztecs (12-0) struggled in the first half to put away the poor-shooting Utes (9-3) and led by only 10 points at the halftime break. But a 51-point second half on 56% shooting helped San Diego State stay undefeated on the season in a convincing win over a young Utah team.
San Diego State had three players in double figures in the game and was led in scoring by Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn, who finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds. Nathan Mensah and Yanni Wetzell each had 14 points in the win.
The Aztecs opened up the game on an 80% shooting clip to take an early 9-2 lead, but their hot shooting slowed a bit as the Utes transitioned to a zone defense. The shift in defensive strategy by the Utes kept the Aztecs from blowing the game out of Utah’s reach, holding San Diego State to only 29 first-half points.
But consistently poor shooting (31% in the game), multiple long-term scoring droughts and an abundance of turnovers by Utah allowed the Aztecs to build up a 30-point lead despite the Utes being able to cut the lead to 8 points early in the second half. Utah was also dominated in the post and was outscored 42-10 in the paint.
For a majority of the game, Utah only had three players score in the game — Timmy Allen, Both Gach and Rylan Jones, who scored the team’s first 5 points nearly eight minutes into the game. Jones, though, never scored again in the game in only 29 minutes of play.
Allen, who has been Utah’s team’s leading scorer all season, finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting and six rebounds and was Utah’s only scorer in double figures. Allen struggled to hit shots early but used 6-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line in the first half to spur better shooting in the second half.
Utah now has a two-week break before returning to action on Jan. 2, 2020, against Oregon State at 6:30 p.m. to open up conference play. The game will be at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.