SAN DIEGO (AP) — A mess at altitude three nights earlier, San Diego State was unstoppable back home at sea level.
Devin Watson scored 15 points and Max Montana came off the bench to score 14 and lead San Diego State to its 10th straight victory against Utah State, 79-59 on Saturday night.
The Aztecs (9-4, 1-1 Mountain West) rebounded from a deflating defeat at Wyoming in the conference opener on Wednesday night, when they blew a five-point lead in the second half and lost 82-69.
Malik Pope and Jalen McDaniels scored 13 apiece for SDSU, which had a 21-point lead with seven minutes to play.
The Aztecs held a no-holds-barred locker room meeting after the loss at Wyoming.
“It definitely brings everyone together,” said Pope, a senior. “You talk and figure out where you messed up. I feel like it helped us, definitely.”
Said Montana: “After a loss like that we figure out what was going to work for us and what’s not. But one thing that has to be constant is us being happy for each other, happy for each other’s success, going out there and having fun, and doing all the constants that we have to do to win games. There’s going to be a lot of variables within basketball games but if we remain with the constants then we should have a great shot at winning every game.”
The Aztecs led the whole game and had their first double-digit lead fewer than eight minutes in, when Montana hit a 3-point shot. Jeremy Hemsley made a layup a minute later to push the lead to 21-7. The Aztecs led 43-29 at halftime.
Coach Brian Dutcher called it a “good bounce-back game. Getting over the disappointment of the Wyoming game, that’s what I told the kids, life is about 10 percent of what happens, like a loss to Wyoming, and 90 percent how you deal with it. We had two good days of practice and we looked like it today when we played.”
Watson scored five of his points late, including a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired with two minutes to go and a putback in the final seconds.
Utah State coach Tim Duryea said the Aztecs had the Aggies on their heels pretty much from the start, and appeared motivated after the loss at Wyoming.
“I thought they played with a lot of bounce, a lot of urgency,” Duryea said. “Obviously they were the desperate team tonight. We go back home Wednesday and we’ll be in that same situation. You have to defend your home court like crazy in this league because road wins are going to be tough. They are really, really valuable when you get them. You have to take a swing every night, but you can’t come in here, especially, and make the mistakes that we did tonight.”
Sam Merrill scored 18 for Utah State (8-7, 1-1), which had its three-game win streak snapped. Koby McEwen and DeAngelo Isby had 15 points apiece.
Duryea wasn’t happy with the Aggies’ defensive play, rebounding and particularly their 19 turnovers.
Utah State: The Aggies dropped to 0-10 against SDSU since joining the Mountain West Conference in the 2013-14 season. Overall, SDSU leads the series 10-3.
San Diego State: Junior guard Montaque Gill-Caesar has left the program due to multiple injuries. He remains on scholarship and in school. He played in seven games, averaging 4.3 points 2.1 rebounds. He transferred from Missouri after the 2014-15 season.
Utah State hosts Fresno State on Wednesday night.
San Diego State goes back on the road to face Colorado State on Tuesday night.