EditorsNote: Adds city in lead; corrects to “shooting” in penultimate graf; other minor edits
Undefeated and 13th-ranked San Diego State moved within five games of matching the program’s all-time best start when it knocked off reigning Mountain West Conference champion Utah State on Saturday, 77-68 in Logan, Utah.
The Aztecs (15-0, 4-0 Mountain West) moved two games ahead of last season’s co-regular-season and Mountain West Tournament champion, an important early step in the conference race. What’s more, San Diego State now sits just five wins shy of matching the Kawhi Leonard-led 2010-11 team, which started 20-0.
Malachi Flynn led the Aztecs on Saturday with 22 points, while Matt Mitchell — making his second consecutive start — added 19 points and seven rebounds.
Utah State (13-4, 2-2), coming off a stunning loss on Wednesday at UNLV, could not rally from a double-digit deficit in the second half.
The Aggies had All-Mountain West center Neemias Queta in the lineup for the first time since he exited a Dec. 21 win over Florida with a knee injury. He posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Queta’s dunk with a little more than eight minutes remaining capped a 12-3 run and trimmed a San Diego State lead that once swelled to as many as 16 points to seven.
Utah State cut the lead back to seven again after the final media timeout, but San Diego State responded with a quick, 9-3 run over the ensuing 1:50 to put the game out of the Aggies’ reach.
Jordan Schakel capped the run with the last of his three made 3-pointers, scored on one of Flynn’s four assists. With 11 points, Schakel joined Flynn, Mitchell and Yanni Wetzell, who had 10 points, in double-figures.
The Aztecs held Utah State to 6-of-23 shooting from long range and limited preseason Mountain West Player of the Year Sam Merrill to 3-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
Merrill scored a game-high 26 points despite his struggles from 3-point range.
—Field Level Media