San Diego State gets its revenge in rout over Utah State

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LOGAN — Less than a month ago, Utah State beat the visiting San Diego State Aztecs by 18 points.

After the game inside the Spectrum, Aztecs guard Chad Baker-Mazara had some words to say: "Glad for them, they got the W. Now they have to come to Viejas. We're not going to forget about this — I'll tell you that."

Baker-Mazara proved to be a man of his word as the Aztecs turned Tuesday night's return game into one Utah State would like to forget.

San Diego State flipped the script in Game 2 of the conference rivalry and dominated the Aggies 75-56 in Viejas Arena to win their fourth-straight game.

Utah State gave up zero offensive rebounds in the first matchup in Logan; in Viejas Arena, they gave up 11. Similarly, the Aztecs shot 33.3% from 3-point range in the first game, but on Tuesday shot 50%; the Aggies, on the other hand, shot 41.7% in the first game and 27.8% in the second.

The recent turn of events doesn't bode well for Ryan Odom's squad.

After each of their first 12 conference games was decided by single digits, Utah State has now lost back-to-back games by double digits. They're now 6-8 in conference play — seventh place — with four regular-season games remaining. If results hold, they'll have to play their way into the conference tournament quarterfinals, requiring four wins in order to be a bid-stealer in Las Vegas.

And if Utah State wants to make any noise in Sin City, they better hope not to run into an Aztecs team that plays like they did Tuesday night.

Led by Matt Bradley with a game-high 22 points, the Aztecs had their way offensively against the Aggies, shooting 51.7% from the field and 7-of-14 from 3-point range. Keshad Johnson had 14 points, including an emphatic one-handed slam to go up 61-45 with 8:03 remaining.

"We need to do a better job just playing team defense," senior forward Justin Bean said. "We have to do a better job knowing who has the ball and who their scorers are and who we can help off of and then just closing the possession out by getting rebounds."

The Aggies shot 40.4% from the field — their lowest shooting percentage since Jan. 20 against Boise State. Bean had a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds, but the 3-ball wasn't reliable as San Diego State forced Utah State into out-of-rhythm attempts. Utah State shot just 5 of 18 from beyond the arc.

"I thought their defense was dynamite — San Diego State's," Odom said. "They really bothered us."

The Aztecs went on a 12-0 run in the first half and a 9-0 run in the second half, and the Aggies didn't seem to have an answer to either of them.

"They were hungry," Bean said. "But at the end of the day, we just kind of took the punches and didn't give them back and didn't take them with force."

Bean hit a 3-pointer to give Utah State a 26-23 lead 12 minutes into the game, and then the Aztecs took control for the remainder of the game — Bradley hit back-to-back jumpers and Baker-Mazara made a 3-pointer to start the run. After the game, Odom mentioned his disappointment in his team's inability to prevent several catch-and-shoot opportunities for Bradley and others.

"We had too many breakdowns defensively — scouting report things," Odom said. "Several times Bradley catches and doesn't have to dribble and bangs a three or two."

Utah State's offense went quiet on the other end and San Diego State took a 9-point lead before eventually controlling a 42-34 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Aggies cut it to six with 14:39 remaining on a Bean layup, but that's as close as the Aggies would get. The Aztecs went on a 9-0 run, spurned by a step-back 3-pointer by Bradley to build the lead to 15 points. Another Bradley 3-pointer gave the Aztecs a 19-point lead with six minutes remaining.

"That was a lot closer game in the first half for sure," Bean said. "The game got away from us towards the end of the first half and then they came out swinging in the second."

Struggling with spacing and ball movement, the Aggies were bothered defensively in the second half and scored just 22 points.

"When you're playing a dynamite defense like that, if you don't have enough space to maneuver and get around, you don't make them guard the whole court, they can bottle you up which they did," Bean said.

Utah State is now 0-8 in Viejas Arena since joining the Mountain West Conference. They'll look to bounce back Saturday at Boise State.

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