San Diego State has been challenged while earning its past two wins. The sixth-ranked Aztecs might have another obstacle in their next game.
The statuses of starting guard Chase Tapley and reserve forward Tim Shelton are unknown for Tuesday night’s matchup with Utah, which also played tough against San Diego State in a home loss last month.
The Aztecs remained tied with BYU atop the Mountain West following a 60-53 win against TCU on Saturday night at Viejas Arena, but trailed for much of the first half.
Billy White had a team-best 19 points, and Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas each finished with double-doubles.
“I had 10 people, all of them friends, say ‘Any win is a good win.’ But some wins you feel a little better about,” coach Steve Fisher said. “We had opportunities where we didn’t quite finish and we have to be better.”
In the previous game Wednesday night, San Diego State (23-1, 8-1) needed D.J. Gay’s jumper with 1.8 seconds left for a 56-54 win at Colorado State. The Aztecs were also challenged during a 71-62 win at Utah on Jan. 8.
The Utes (10-13, 3-6) led by one point after halftime and trailed by one with 8:44 left before San Diego State went on a 10-0 run. Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and nine rebounds, but struggled with the high altitude and pulled himself out of the game three times
Leonard should fare a little better at Viejas, where San Diego State has won 16 in a row and has lost twice in 41 games - both times to BYU.
The Aztecs could use another strong performance from Leonard with Tapley and Shelton potentially sidelined. Tapley hurt his left ankle during a spill under the basket early in Saturday’s game and Shelton injured his right foot later in the first half.
Thomas had 17 points and 14 rebounds in the previous matchup with Utah, and Gay hit four 3-pointers en route to 18 points. The Aztecs point guard, however, has missed 15 of 19 attempts from beyond the arc over the past four games.
He missed seven of nine overall shots in a 68-61 win last season - San Diego State’s fourth straight at home over the Utes - but Thomas scored a career-high 28 points.
The senior forward has averaged 22.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in his three matchups with Utah, and Leonard has averaged 16.7 points and 11.7 boards in those games.
The two players will try to match those numbers against a Utah team that’s lost three in a row after three straight wins. After scoring 75.0 points per game during their win streak, the Utes have averaged 57.0 during their slide and endured their worst scoring performance in four seasons in Saturday night’s 54-49 loss to Air Force.
With a career-high 15 points, Shawn Glover was the only player in double figures. Freshman Will Clyburn, the conference’s second-leading scorer (18.3 ppg), matched his season low with eight.
Clyburn scored 17 in the loss to the Aztecs while junior guard Josh Watkins had a career-high 24. Watkins is the only other Utes player averaging in double figures (14.7 ppg).
San Diego State is on its longest win streak in the series, having claimed three straight over Utah.