Matt Mitchell celebrates in a game where he scored 28, lifting the Aztecs. The team trailed by as many as 10 against Utah State Saturday, but came back in the second half. Photo credit: @Aztec_MBB, via Twitter

Powered by a hot Matt Mitchell, San Diego State overcame a 10-point deficit Saturday to come back against Utah State and win their 23rd straight on the season.

SDSU, ranked No. 4 in the country, defeated the Aggies 80-68. With the win San Diego State improves to 12-0 in the Mountain West, while Utah State falls to 6-5, 17-7 overall.

The undefeated Aztecs went on an 8-0 run to open the game with a 10-4 lead. Utah State, last year’s Mountain West champs, crept back though, to go up 39-31 at the half. 

The Aggies made seven three-pointers to establish the lead, and at one point went on a 14-0 run. They surged as Yanni Wetzell left the game after committing two fouls in less than 10 seconds.

The Utah State effort quieted an enthusiastic home crowd at Viejas Arena. They were there not only to see if the Aztecs could continue their winning ways, but to honor NBA star Kawhi Leonard.

SDSU retired Leonard’s number during a ceremony at the half.

Mitchell though, pulled the crowd back into the game after the break. He scored 24 points in the second half – most of his total on the game, 28. That far outpaces his point average on the season, 11.2.

His three-pointer put the Aztecs up 50-49. The Aggies tied the game once more, but they did not regain the lead.

Coach Brian Dutcher, alarmed by Utah State’s early success, shared his advice for the Aztecs at the break.

“We got to turn the three off, do a better job defensively,” he said he told his team. “And then Matt Mitchell was sensational.”

Mitchell, a junior forward, said he was “just happy I was able to show up” on a special night for his school and for Leonard. He also pointed to his team’s recent stretch of tests on the road, against UNLV and New Mexico.

“We have toughness, grit,” Mitchell said. “We showed it on the road, we showed it at home.”

San Diego State plays its next game Feb. 8, facing Air Force at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

– Staff reports

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