Justin Bean. Photo by Tina Lerohl
SAN DIEGO — The Aggies lost their third game in a row; this time, it was San Diego State’s dominant defense that made the difference, 75 to 56. The final score was nearly reversed between the previous matchup between the squads as the Aztecs exacted revenge from their 75 to 57 loss in Logan.
“The credit’s all to them. They just did a really nice job tonight,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
The loss is tied with the Iowa game for the Aggies’ largest loss by deficit this season. Against the Hawkeyes, defense seemed to be the main problem. This time around, it was a lackluster offensive performance that did the Aggies in.
Utah State struggled on offense shooting 40% from the field and 28% from 3-point range. Only two Aggies scored in double digits – forwards Justin Bean and Brandon Horvath – and the bench combined for nine total points. Bean finished shy of a double-double with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“I thought their defense was dynamite,” Odom said. “They really bothered us.”
Turnovers were also a problem as the Aggies had a tough time taking care of the ball. They ended up with 15 turnovers and the Aztecs capitalized on those with 23 points off of turnovers; however, Odom said it could have been worse.
“Dodged some bullets, quite honestly, in transition defense where they had some open looks that didn’t go in,” Odom said.
One of the top candidates for Mountain West Player of the Year, guard Matt Bradley, proved to be too much for the Aggies. Bradley finished with 22 points, three rebounds and five assists.
“We had too many breakdowns defensively. Scouting report things. Several times, Bradley catches and doesn’t have to dribble and bangs a three or two,” Odom said.
Utah State stayed in the game through most of the first half, losing their last lead of the game with 6:22 before the break. An Aztec 12-0 run took the lead from the Aggies. In that run, half of the points came from Bradley.
“That was a lot closer game in the first half,” Bean said. “The game got away from us toward the end of the first half and they came out swinging in the second.”
The Aztecs continued to build their lead on additional runs. The second came six minutes into the second half. San Diego State went on a 9-0 run to bring their lead to 57-42 with 10:55 remaining.
After guard Sean Bairstow scored three points in two possessions, the Aztecs went on two more short runs. A 7-0 run and a 9-2 run ballooned San Diego State’s lead to 22. The Aggies were outscored by 11 points in the final 20 minutes.
“In the second half, they turned it up even more,” Odom said. “Defensively, they really bothered us. We didn’t give ourselves enough space to work with. We have to make sure we do that going forward because when you’re playing a dynamite defense like that if you don’t have enough space to be able to maneuver… and you don’t make them guard the whole court they can bottle you up. Which they did.”
Along with offensive woes, Utah State was outrebounded for the eighth time this season. The Aggies are 1-7 when they lose on the glass.
In the past four games, Utah State has given up at least 70 points to each opponent. Against UNLV, the Aggies were able to outscore their competition. In the ensuing three, they were not.
“We need to do a better job just playing team defense,” Bean said. “We just 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 will not have much time to shake this loss off. They visit Boise State on Saturday in another fierce opposing arena.
“We’re playing really good teams in their building. We have to play better than we played tonight to have a chance to win,” Odom said.
With the loss, Utah State falls to 15-12 on the year and 6-8 in the Mountain West.