SAN DIEGO — It didn't take long for sixth-ranked San Diego State to flex its muscle Tuesday night against Utah. The Aztecs cruised to a 85-53 victory after building a 27-point halftime lead.
"I thought they were awesome. You have to give them credit," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "They punched us in the mouth to start the game and we didn't respond. Points off turnovers hurt us early, We got in a hole and we didn't respond well."
The reeling Utes, who fell to 10-14 overall and 3-7 in Mountain West Conference play, offered little resistance in losing their fourth consecutive game and most lopsided decision of the season, surpassing a 104-79 setback to BYU on Jan. 11. Their only lead was at 2-0.
After that, it was pretty all Aztecs — much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 12,414 at Viejas Arena.
"They're a good team but that doesn't mean we can get off to that bad of a start," Boylen said. "You have to give them credit, but I think we had a lot to do with it, too. We just looked a little scared. We have to go back and go to work and try to figure it out."
Things won't be get easier. The Utes visit nationally ranked BYU Saturday. The Cougars are the only team to beat the Aztecs (24-1, 9-1) this season.
"We have a big game Saturday," Boylen said. "Back into the fire."
SDSU pulled away in the pivotal first half by outrebounding Utah 27-17 and forcing nine turnovers. The Aztecs shot 46.2 percent from the field, while limiting the Utes to just 27.6 percent accuracy.
"We were sensational the first half in every point of our game," said SDSU coach Steve Fisher. "We guarded hard, had only two first-half turnovers, did not give them anything easy, gave up zero 3-pointers in the first half, and played really hard, smart basketball."
A 21-3 run early in first half made it 28-9 and an 11-2 ourburst just before the intermission made it 43-17.
The 48-21 halftime deficit was Utah's largest of the season.
"They came out and punched us in the mouth but we didn't respond," said Utah forward Will Clyburn. "We came out soft and when you're playing a good team, you really can't come out like that."
Things grew worse for Utah in the second half as SDSU's lead eventually swelled to 34 points.
"We want to try to make people quit," said Aztec center Brian Carlwell.
"So we just get out there and we just run. We were able to do that today and we had a lot of success doing it."
A rowdy SDSU student section, sitting just left of the Utah bench, chanted "show no mercy" early in the game. As things progressed, they began yelling "Boylen's fired." They later pointed at the Utah players and screamed "you should transfer" in unison.
Center David Foster acknowledged it was bothersome.
"Absolutely. Especially them chanting something personal about coach," he said. "Because he gets so much respect and love from us as players that gives me more motivation to work harder and protect the man who is protecting us as players each and every day."
The Utes have plenty of room for improvement. They were outscored 50-30 in the paint and 23-0 in points off of turnovers. The Aztecs also held advantages in bench scoring (27-7), second-chance opportunities (19-11) and fast break points (10-2).
SDSU had five players score in double-figures — Billy White (15), D.J.
Gay (15), Jamaal Franklin (13), Kawhi Leonard (12) and Carwell (10). Three Aztecs reached double-digits on the boards, Leonard pulled down a game-high 14, while Malcolm Thomas and Franklin each had 10.
"I think they're a Final Four team," Boylen said.
Clyburn led Utah with 18 points and eight rebounds, Foster also grabbed eight for the Utes.
GAME NOTES: This was SDSU's largest margin of victory over Utah. The previous high was 13 points in 1982 and 1987 . . . The Aztecs have won the last four meetings with the Utes . . . SDSU alum Marshall Faulk, who was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, received a standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd in the second half.
Tuesday's 48—21 halftime deficit at San Diego State was Utah's largest of the season. The Utes are now 2—12 when trailing at the break. The lone victories came in non—conference play against Boise State and Pepperdine.
21 — Feb. 8 at San Diego State (48—21)
17 — Dec. 10 at Michigan (39—22)
13 — Dec. 22 vs. Butler (40—27) *
11 — Jan. 19 vs. BYU (53—42)
9 — Nov. 24 at Utah State (35—26)
9 — Feb. 2 at UNLV (33—24)
8 — Dec. 17 vs. Boise State (48—40)
7 — Nov. 27 vs. Oral Roberts (34— 27)
5 — Dec. 25 vs. San Diego (35—30) *
5 — Feb. 5 vs. Air Force (31—26)
4 — Dec. 23 at Hawaii (37—33) *
4 — Jan. 29 vs. Colorado State (40—36)
3 — Dec. 7 vs. Pepperdine (29—26)
1 — Jan. 5 at Air Force (34—33)
* Diamondhead Classic in Hawaii