LOGAN, Utah (AP)Matt Bradley scored 18 points and No. 25 San Diego State held on to beat Utah State 63-61 on Wednesday night.
Bradley made his first seven shots and went 7 of 9 from the field overall to help keep the Aztecs (19-5, 10-2 Mountain West Conference) atop the conference standings.
”I like the way Matt turns up his game when it’s most needed and it was most needed tonight,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. ”He turned it up on the biggest stage for us.”
Jaedon LeDee had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Micah Parrish added 12 points for San Diego State. The Aztecs’ top three scorers grabbed a combined 22 rebounds.
Utah State trailed by double digits much of the game until Dan Akin made a pair of free throws to cap a 9-0 run that cut San Diego State’s lead to 62-61 with a minute left.
Max Shulga missed a potential winning jumper in the final seconds, and Keshad Johnson went 1 of 2 from the line with 1.8 seconds left to seal the victory for San Diego State. The Aztecs didn’t score a basket over the final 5 1/2 minutes.
”We knew it was do or die time,” LeDee said. ”We needed a stop. I think we really locked in and we got it done.”
Steven Ashworth had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds for Utah State (19-6, 8-4). Taylor Funk added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies, who lost at home for just the second time this season.
Darrion Trammell and Parrish made back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 20-4 run that gave San Diego State a 28-17 lead late in the first half. Seven players scored for the Aztecs during that stretch.
Utah State struggled to find a spark on offense before halftime. After Ashworth hit a 3-pointer to put the Aggies up 13-8, the Aztecs limited Utah State to only three baskets over the final 13 minutes of the first half.
”The first half was disjointed in a lot of ways for us,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said. ”Their defense really impacted us in a negative way. They were getting out on Steven, getting out on Taylor. We were not organized as we needed to be.”
San Diego State increased its lead to 40-25 after Parrish and Johnson combined to score baskets over three straight possessions. Johnson capped the 7-0 spurt with a layup off a steal.
”The stops helped our running game get going,” Dutcher said. ”We were able to run a little bit, so we got some transition baskets. We didn’t have to fight everything in the full court.”
Utah State hit nine of its first 12 shots after halftime and cut a double-digit deficit to 56-51 midway through the second half. Sean Bairstow capped an 8-0 run with a layup to make it a two-possession game. Bradley and Parrish halted the run with back-to-back jumpers.
The Aggies put together another rally in the final five minutes before falling short. Still, Utah State drew several positives from how they fought their way back into the game.
”We put ourselves in that position with that run,” Ashworth said. ”That’s what we hope the full 40 minutes will be like moving forward.”
San Diego State: Stifling defense and efficient offense helped the Aztecs carve out an early double-digit lead and escape with their ninth win in their last 11 road games against Mountain West opponents.
Utah State: The Aggies had uncharacteristic struggles on offense for a half and it proved too much for Utah State to overcome down the stretch.
San Diego State: hosts UNLV on Saturday.
Utah State: visits San Jose State on Saturday.
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