Things got tense between San Diego State and Utah State Wednesday, yet somehow the Aztecs survived the inhospitable environs in Logan to win 63-61.
The team (19-5, 10-2 MW), though, as has been their wont, let a big lead slip away as they failed to score a basket in the final 5:40 of the game. The Aggies (19-6, 8-4 MW) made a furious push in an attempt to create a logjam atop the Mountain West, and pulled within one point with one minute to go.
But in that final minute, the shots wouldn’t fall for Utah State either, and as the clock wound down, Keshad Johnson grabbed the rebound off Aggie Max Shulga’s missed jumper, then was fouled. He made one of two free throws and Utah State couldn’t take advantage of the 1.8 seconds left to get off another shot.
Head coach Brian Dutcher bemoaned the low score – just 19 points – posted by the Aztecs in the second half to San Diego Sports 760, but as he said, “It was two enough” for SDSU to break its three-game losing steak on Utah State’s court.
San Diego State had a 19-4 run, started by Darrion Trammell, to jump out to a 27-17 lead, but then fireworks erupted that led to three players being ejected, including Trammell, and technical fouls against both coaches.
During a time out, Trammell, near the SDSU bench, appeared to brush against Aggie Taylor Funk, who took exception. As players lingered on the court, Utah State Ryan Odom then rushed over to jaw with referee John Higgins.
After a lengthy delay, Trammell and two Aggies, Conner Gillis and Connor Odom, were kicked out due to leaving their benches. Funk was assessed a technical, as was each coach.
Though they had all the momentum before the delay, San Diego State enjoyed another run on the other side of it, outscoring Utah State 15-5 over the final five minutes of the half. The Aztecs went to the locker room up 44-28, thanks to a layup by Micah Parrish with one second left on the clock.
Utah State, though, started the half on 9-2 run. Yet SDSU was up by 10 with 5:40 to play, thanks to a Matt Bradley jumper.
But they did not score again, except for the Johnson free throw, missing 10 of their final 11 shots, and though they came up short, the Aggies outscored them 33-19 in the half.
Yet the Aztecs held on, thanks to Bradley, who led the team with 18 points, and Jaedon LeDee, who had 14 and added 10 rebounds. The team also far outpaced Utah State in points off the bench, 30-9.
Meanwhile, San Diego State remains in the Associated Press Top 25, holding the final spot, a dip from No. 22 last week. They also are ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, at No. 23.
The Aztecs return to Viejas Arena to host UNLV (15-8, 4-7 MW) at 1 p.m. Saturday.