We knew before the season started that Utah would be a great first test for the Aztecs.
San Diego State’s 81-76 loss Monday night in Salt Lake City confirmed it.
It was a close game throughout with both teams trading runs, going hot and cold, and seemingly nowhere in between.
The Utes are a good team. They’re tough to beat at home.
They are ranked 16th in the country and yet, never at any point appeared to be the more dominant team, especially for an Aztecs’ team that will rely on youth this season.
San Diego State was the better team on the stat sheet. The Aztecs shot 42 percent from the field (26-61), surprisingly 76 percent from the free throw line (16-21), and 47 percent from three-point range (8-17). Comparably, the Utes shot 40, 75, and 37 percent in the same categories. On the boards, both teams nabbed 38 rebounds, the only difference being Utah’s 13 offensive rebounds to San Diego State’s 12, and 25 to 26 defensively.
The real difference in the game was the fouls. San Diego State was called for 28 personal fouls to Utah’s 19, and while the Aztecs had the better percentage at the free throw line (shocker), the Utes had 15 more attempts and made 11 more shots.
Granted, nine of Utah’s free throws came in the last few minutes with the Aztecs down and forced to foul.
Still, San Diego State had a chance to make it a one-point game, down 79-75 with nine seconds remaining, when sophomore guard Trey Kell was fouled on a three-point attempt. He made the first but missed the last two.
Three things that stood out:
- Winston Shepard showed he could/should be the go to scorer on this team. After scoring just two points in the first half, Shepard scored 12 points in the first six minutes of the second half. He missed a good chunk of time after with what looked like a foot injury. He later returned and nailed a huge three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining, narrowing the score to 75-73. He led the Aztecs with 19 points on 6-9 shooting, including 5-6 from the line, and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. He had just four points in the season opener against Illinois State.
- Much like previous seasons, the Aztecs are deep. Led by Dakarai Allen’s 15 points, including three 3’s, San Diego State’s bench outscored Utah 27-7. The unit also outrebounded the Utes 12-3. Through two games, Allen appears to making a serious case for the starting lineup. He scored 16 points against Illinois State and had three rebounds and three blocks. Conversely, the school’s highest rated recruit Malik Pope has struggled to find his form through two games. He finished the night with just four points on 1-8 shooting, including 1-4 from three-point range. He scored just one point against Illinois State, going 0-4 from the field.
- 81 points! That’s the highest number of points allowed by an Aztecs team in a regulation game since losing to Florida Gulf Coast 81-71 in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Yes, it’s only the second game of the season but the usually defensively sound Aztecs allowed too many open looks because of mishaps. Got to clean it up.
San Diego State resumes play Wednesday night at 7p.m. against San Diego Christian at Viejas Arena.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER:@andrewburer)