Second-seeded Aztecs oust overmatched Utes


One top-10 team struggled against an inferior opponent in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

San Diego State made sure it didn't happen again.

The seventh-ranked Aztecs used a 10-2 run to take a 20-12 lead and closed the first half with eight straight points to seize a 30-15 halftime margin in the third quarterfinal game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday and went on to a 64-50 victory.

San Diego State (30-2), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, advanced to play third-seeded UNLV in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal today.

"I thought we played exceptional defense, especially in the first 30 minutes," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "Our defense dictated everything. At this stage, to hold a team to 50 points, to win by 14 points, you have to be happy."

Utah (13-18) got within nine early in the second half, but Kawhi Leonard's baseline dunk and two free throws by Brian Carlwell capped a 9-0 run to put the Aztecs up 41-23 with 12:20 remaining, and the lead grew from there until a Utah run in garbage time.

"We were trying to close out the game. We're just focused on playing good defense and trying to get better each and every game," said Leonard, who finished with 13 points in 12 minutes in just 25 minutes of action because of a back issue he called "no serious injury."

The sophomore also put an exclamation point on the 10-2 first-half run with a 3-pointer from the wing.

Just before halftime, Chase Tapley and D.J. Gay hit 3-pointers in a span of 21 seconds and Billy White threw down a dunk on a fast-break moments later to give the Aztecs a 30-15 lead at the break.

The lead grew to as large as 23 midway through the second half for the Aztecs against an overmatched Utah team playing its final game in the conference and perhaps its last under Jim Boylen.

The animated coach is rumored to be on the way out as the program transitions into the Pac-12.

"I'm very thankful to be the head coach here. I was hired to build this program," Boylen said. "I haven't worried about my job status at all. I've been brought here to coach and teach, and I've never stopped doing that, and I won't."

Will Clyburn led the Utes with 20 points and seven rebounds. David Foster had six points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Malcolm Thomas had 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for San Diego State. White added 11 points and nine boards.

 

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