SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State’s offense can be downright painful to watch at times.
Not so the Aztecs’ defense.
“This is as good of a defensive team as we’ve had since we’ve been here,” coach Steve Fisher said after the Aztecs shut down Utah State 62-42 Saturday night to retain a share of the Mountain West Conference lead.
“Tonight was as classic example,” added Fisher, who’s in his 16th season at SDSU. “That team that we played had been playing terrific basketball. They are a hard team to guard and we guarded them, and we guarded them very effectively.”
San Diego State was so good defensively that Utah State had only 16 points with 12 minutes to go.
“It kind of feels good,” said Skylar Spencer, who had three of SDSU’s four blocked shots. “At first you don’t really notice it because we’re so locked in. But then you check the scoreboard and you realize we’re up by so much. Overall we did a pretty good job of staying locked in and focused.”
Aqeel Quinn scored 15 points and freshman Malik Pope had 13, including making three straight shots at one point, to help the Aztecs (17-5, 7-2 MWC) win for the sixth time in seven games.
SDSU remains tied atop the MWC with Wyoming, which beat Nevada 63-55.
Utah State (12-9, 5-4), shot just 29.2 percent from the field and quickly fell behind by double digits after a cold start to the second half. After David Collette scored with 18:52 left to pull the Aggies to 23-16, Utah State didn’t score again until Chris Smith made a bucket with 11:44 to go. By then it was 37-18 San Diego State.
SDSU “was great defensively,” Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “That’s a really good defensive basketball team. They make it hard for you to get much.”
The Aztecs led 21-14 at halftime and went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to go up 33-16. Skylar Spencer scored on a reverse layup, Quinn hit a 3-pointer, Winston Shepard made two free throws and Matt Shrigley hit a 3.
“In the second half, I think we came out a little flat,” Morrill said. “We were a little stunned by how they took us out of everything.”
SDSU is 13-0 at home, where it has yet to let an opponent score 60 points.
“I don’t think there will be anybody in the Mountain West that will win here,” Morrill said. “The best thing we can do is flush it and move on.”
Pope, who had a breakout, 22-point game in a loss at Colorado State a week earlier, scored seven straight points for the Aztecs midway through the second half. He had a put-back, a 3-pointer from the left wing and an alley-oop slam on a lob from fellow freshman Trey Kell to give the Aztecs a 42-18 lead.
Jalen Moore scored 13 points for Utah State, which shot just 29.2 percent overall.
Utah State: The Aggies have been held to 42 or fewer points five times since 1996-97 and SDSU has done it in consecutive games.
San Diego State: The Aztecs extended their home winning streak to 27 games.
San Diego State is the first team since Wyoming in 1997-98 to beat BYU, Utah and Utah State in the same season.
Quinn is impressed with Pope. “Malik’s got a certain aura about himself when he gets out there on the floor. He’s a young cat, he’s ready, full of energy. … He raises up for those dunks and everybody’s, ‘Oooh.’ That whole class is talented, not just him. It’s going to be a tough SDSU team in the future. I can’t wait to be alumni and come back and watch these NBA born-and-ready players. “
Utah State hosts Boise State on Tuesday night.
San Diego State is at Nevada on Wednesday night.